Entries tagged with “Maps”.
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Tue 19 Jun 2012
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
We’ll be taking a look at older games maps, like this one above. I love Seiken Densetsu 3s maps. This is a relatively simple map in comparison to some of the games other maps but you can always check on vgmaps for more.
First off, try to ignore the cool pixel art in general for now and focus just on the map design itself. This path is very linear because it’s only a branch off in a bigger area map. It is the beginning of the game so there isn’t much freedom yet.
The paths are relatively open (it needs to be, it’s an action RPG) but most of the detail is left outside of the walkable paths. I mean, look at that cliff detail on the top right area as you are walking down. Each of the 8 map segments here have a different thing to it that makes it unique.
The top right where you start has a detailed cliff in the center as you walk down and a sign. Go left, it’s only cliffs, no trees, and there is some water. Going down, and there’s trees on the side, a river on the left, and you have to go up a natural bridge to the other side. Then you get off of the cliff bridge and there would be a save point here with a goddess statue. Going down from there, it’s surrounded by trees, with a weird statue that you can examine (It gives you ??? until you’re in the part of the story where you need to go there). You go down to a narrow strip of land and a man made bridge, which leads you into the final area which is a big flower field and the end of the path.
Volcanic Island Bucca is also a good one. This is the one you’re seeing on the left, full version in the link above. That one has different types of tilesets as you go through it. You start out in a beach, go through a jungle, see a tribe of tomatomen in a village, then go up cliffs with different trees, then past waterfalls all over until you get to a cave. You don’t necessarily even need to vary the tilesets or graphics so much as it is in how you use them.
So when you are going through these areas in game, you’ll be able to tell you’re making progress, and not get lost as easily. Having big noticeable landmarks (does not need to be statues, it can be recognizable flower fields or waterfalls as mentioned) can help a player see where they are if they have to backtrack. If you have lots of rooms and areas that are very similarly designed, then players get easily lost and there is no real sense of exploration. Why go exploring if you know everything will look like where you are anyway?
It doesn’t have to be forcefully done, but rather think of what areas will be present and what kind of terrain there is. Take some time to think on where your map is in the world, what geographical features are present there, and how it’ll vary as the player walks from where they start to where it ends. Maybe a forest has a river intersecting it, you can use that to lead the player from a dense forest to swamps with wooden old bridges past a river to eventually a trip by canoe/boat up the river. Variety can be helpful in keeping the player engaged and interested in your world. I say this because I actually see regularly RPGs who have dungeons that have near 0 variety in it. One place looks like another. “Have I been here? I guess there are new monsters, so I guess I haven’t” thoughts come up.
I know I have talked about this topic before in other map posts, I wanted to illustrate it with actual game examples to show how it works.
Sat 4 Feb 2012
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
I feel planning out your game in general is a good idea to do. There may be some times where we’re so used to seeing something in a game that we just add it into the game as is without really giving it much thought. Sometimes we do need to step back and ask “Why” we added or want to add something.
When creating the game areas itself, it can be very helpful to have an idea of why it’s there. “So the players can shop before a dungeon” is a weak reason to just have a generic RPG town. An interesting backstory to a town can help in designing it too. This isn’t something you have to add into an in game book for the player to read. It’s something that you can show by the towns design, the NPCs dialogue, the details, so the town itself shows the player its history.
For example, a mighty town which had a very popular Colosseum went to ruins when the Colosseum did. You can show the broken Colosseum, have people tell you about it, have the town look poor and have some ruins around, and people constantly “living in the past” so to say or think “If only we had the Colosseum back…” or trying to move out to better places.
I think it is good overall to have even part of an idea of the history of your games town and games world. It can really help flesh it out to be more interesting to the players than “Farm town” “Castle town” “RPG town # 5″ “Last town”.
This applies to areas/dungeons in the game too, not just towns. Why is this path here? Just to put monsters in a grassy field for the player to level up? Again, this isn’t something you need to have massive in game encyclopedias for. Plan it out, design the area with that in mind. “Massive airships have fought above this area just a few days ago, and people are still going in looking for survivors/parts. There are still rival soldiers around the area so you may encounter them when they mistake you for an enemy” is one random example that came to mind. Now with this, you have an excuse for the player to find treasures/items they can use. They can come across and help NPCs, you have the matter of why they fought here (which is good if you can tie it into the story itself, like countries at war, can be bad if it’s just a random side story that doesn’t really go anywhere), and enemies that fit in the area instead of randomly having water enemies appear over a desert.
I do not think you really need to have 1000s of pages of notes on every single detail. Somewhere you can just spontaneously think of something that does work well within the initial plans you designed. I think the plans are more helpful to keep a consistant design and get your creativity flowing instead of using common ideas and not doing much with it.
Thu 26 Jan 2012
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
Sat 22 Oct 2011
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
You can also view my post on mapping forests here!
All I tend to see from RPG Caves is that they have you go and fight bat enemies and spiders over droning boring music while every enemy poisons you without a way for you to heal it until right after the cave. I am pretty tired of seeing caves like that, honestly. It screams “Time padding” to me because there is rarely ever an RPG that uses a cave to an actual meaningful effect other than to grind to Level 4 and fight boss while going to another town. This is not a preferred passageway for trade because if anything, using mountain roads would be better, providing more light and being safer. It could very well be that you do want a real use for it, but it would have to make sense with the world you built.
There ARE uses for caves that aren’t the FIRE ELEMENTAL CAVE TO GET AN ORB types of deals. Just think about why people would need to use a cave in the first place. Mines, to rest for shelter, building underground cities, hiding from being chased down, burial grounds, things like that. It’s not necessary to remove caves from your game, it’s just a good idea to think on why you would really need this cave. You’d want to see if you can make it interesting and fun for the player too. Interactions other than pushing rocks and fighting random encounters with deadends all over.
Really, if someone wants to have elemental caves, and has a good way to make it fun, then go ahead. However, it’s always good to think of how you can make things interesting. “What are they doing in here? What is the history of this location? What does this place mean in the world? How can I make it fun for the player?” are the types of questions you should be asking yourself.
For example, you are rushing against the clock trying to get to the town or x person in a town across the mountains before the caravan does. The caravan takes the mountain path, and you know you won’t make it because they had a head start. There are bears in the cave, but that is the shortest route as the mountain path is winding. So then they have to go through and avoid the bears as they are too powerful for your characters. Maybe even simple makeshift traps “Lure bear to x spot and we’ll take care of them so they don’t bother us anymore” could work. It’s not a perfect example, but it’s just something to illustrate something of what I mean. Instead of it being another area for the player to go around without anything other than bat enemies and spiders.
Also, caves tend to really make you feel small. I mean, there’s obviously many types of caves, stone caves, limestone, water caves and stuff and not all of them would be really grand scale (especially if you are mining into them) but it is something to keep in mind. Variety, landmarks and the feeling of progression are to be considered too. I’ve talked about this feeling of progression before. For an example: Seeing an indoor river in the cave, having narrower paths as you go, then open up into a massive room with carved statues (that was used long ago), then going up and starting to see more light and plants around with patches of sunlight coming from holes in the cave ceiling then you exit. Stuff like that could help the player get a sense of real progression in there and not just seeing walls of brown and wondering when it’ll be over.
Mainly i just tend to be upset about it because I’m been in a real cave and I have yet to see an RPG cave that felt any bit as impressive, with the possible exception of Legend of Mana, whose caves had enjoyable and more upbeat music. Like this one:
I noticed this with Threads of Fates ruins interior dungeon. It was pretty much identical passageways for part of it, but I enjoyed it more because the music was so calming and nice that i couldn’t help be more patient with it despite its downfalls. They should obviously fit the tone you’re trying to set for the cave, but hopefully that mood isn’t “Boring your players to sleep”.
I’ll leave with some interesting cave pictures!
Tue 27 Sep 2011
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
I was asked to make a post on mapping forests. It’s most important to determine what kind of forest you’re doing when you start it. If you are an artist, it would help to sketch up a design for the forest that you want. It will help give you an idea of how the general look will be like.
Everyone has seen a generic forest in an RPG. How will yours be different? We’ve seen the foggy dark forest and the bright and full of trees forest. How about one where you go from above the ground to under ground by a big tree root system? Or having the forest be modified by deforestation? -TFT
Basically, don’t rush into the map. You don’t have to necessarily get out graph paper and plot out every tree or plant but it’s good to plan beforehand. A good way to go about it is to simply ask questions to yourself. What kind of forest is it? Dark, swampy forest? If so, then why do they have to go through there? If it’s between 2 towns, how do they trade? If by a river and boats, could the player do the same? How do you use boats as a gameplay mechanic? Maybe you have to navigate snake and crocodile infested swamps and don’t have the bigger safer boats that merchants generally use? Or maybe you can go in the safer merchant boats but it gets shipwrecked?
It’s not an example from my game, but that should help give you ideas for the area. Enemies have to make sense in the environment. Traps, puzzles, story, design, all of that should at least be plausible (or fun, though they are not mutually exclusive) in the environment you place them in. Think about what nature and wildlife would exist there. To really make it feel alive, you should add birds, small animals and other sprites going around their own business. A good thing to note is if you have touch based encounters, to differentiate the random wildlife from the enemies. You might have bird enemies, but if you use the same sprites for regular birds and enemy birds, people might assume all wildlife is out to get them, or assume it’s just in the background and get attacked.
Your area being a forest means you can still use heights, especially if it’s on a mountainside. I can’t say x is a best way to create a forest, but you will want to keep a few things in mind:
A) Where can the player walk? Don’t change the rules and have the player walk under some tree tops but not others. Keep a clear path where the player can walk.
B) Have the forest feel bigger than the player can explore. You can always block of players paths with stones, fallen trees, cliffs, water, or many trees together, but they should feel there’s more to the forest than the part they travel. I wouldn’t go too crazy or else people might assume they are missing a hidden path or something.
C) How open or cramped the maps are change the atmosphere of the forest. It can make a difference between feeling like a stroll in the park and a claustrophobic forest.
D) I covered this before in another mapping topic. Landmarks. It still applies here. If a forest looks pretty much the same wherever you go in it, the player can get lost easily. Vary the landscape, vary the plants a bit depending on where you are. Maybe you’ll have one open area in the forest map so people will notice where they are if they ever return back to it.
Forests are random and organic so make a super crazy path outline (conducive to the gameplay intent of the area of course) and then build the forest around it, and never ever neglect the concept of elevation because forests can be incredibly dynamic and layered gameplay areas when a lot of thought is devoted to hills, cliffs, slopes, trees fallen across a crevice etc. Water such as creeks, rivers, waterfalls, ponds can add a whole other dimension to your forest. -Ciel
Forests tend to only be an RPG dungeon for people to put random battles between towns. As a developer, you need to think more of it, not just designing a dungeon for no real reason. It has to be driven by what is happening in the story and something interesting to the player, not just pointless filler.
Thu 23 Jun 2011
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
So last Saturday I went to NYC to go see the Pompeii exhibit. I thought it was pretty interesting and I liked it. I saw a model and a video of an example house in Pompeii. You can look here to see that video. Or for a similar house if you want to actually walk around it yourself (using the arrow keys), you can go here for that.
Screenshot taken from Azulea.
More to the point, I was thinking about some of the games I played and how the houses would be just one big room (Not a problem if it fits the culture or building), or that the interior of the house was inconsistent with the exterior. So I figured I’d use this to talk a bit about historical houses and how you can get inspiration from them for your game. I previously made a post on NPC house design too if you’d like to take a look.
There are plenty of books which go over plenty of the details for how ancient civilization houses were constructed, showing various examples and how they lived, and all that info. Childrens books can be surprisingly good reference material as well. Since RPGs tend to have the hero going through a variety of areas with various cultures, it’d be good to get an idea of how different cultures had their own styles and habitats.
Houses may vary because of space restrictions, due to availability of resources, for climate, due to wealth and so on. If the population is big enough, they may build vertically. If wood is scarce, they may use stone or another material which is more plentiful. Some areas may be dangerous because of animals or invaders and it may be fenced or walled off. Some places may have lots of windows or outdoor areas because of a temperate climate. While your game may not need to mimic the real world cultures exactly, it’s still good to see why they built the way they do so you can take inspiration and ideas for your own in game cultures.
Catal Huyuk was a very early settlement in Central Turkey. History lesson aside, it was very tightly packed together, so going in the houses was done by rooftop instead of streets. The warm, dry weather permitted flat roofs, where many activities likely also took place.
Certainly could be used as inspiration for a middle eastern style village. Also, the height and amounts of layers of houses can be visually interesting as well, as well as the rather unique way of entering the houses.
The Roman “Domus” style was actually a mix of Etruscan and Greek styles. Greece and Rome, as they conquered a very vast area, spread a lot of influence which still continues to this day.
The Roman Domus style house
As you saw with the videos posted before, this has an atrium and a garden in the house. The stores shown are spaces in the front of the house that would be rented out so people can sell merchandise on the street. The holes in the roof would allow for rainfall to pour in the pools for use in washing/drinking, as well as for light and air. There were rarely any windows, making the open roofs more necessary. The Roman Insula was the apartment house, where instead of having one big wealthy family living in it, had multiple families and multiple floors so it was tall rather than long.
This brings a few good things to think about when making your house designs for a city in your game. Climate and Wealth have already been mentioned. But how important is the family for that culture? Where do they get their water? Do they revere the elders and ancestors? How does religion play into their lives? How safe/unsafe are the streets? Contrary to general RPG design, towns don’t always need to be completely safe places where you never get attacked. There may be burglars (Hey, in most RPGs it’s honestly YOU who is the burglar. I know you’re eyeing that treasure chest in the house you waltzed in on). Take some care to make it ultimately practical for the player though. While a huge town with huge houses might sound nice, something like walking from one end to another end of the town and getting lost just trying to get to the shops might be frustrating rather than fun.
Medieval houses would vary depending on the owner of it. Peasants would rarely have the money to hire someone to make a big building so usually they were self built with wood and straw. They may have to sleep with the animals inside, on straw beds and little furniture.
Merchants in the bigger cities usually had to have a storage room, a shop and living areas in their houses. The lower floor would be the shop while the people would live upstairs usually. In areas of heavy snowfall, you would have buildings with very steep sloped roofs. (Medieval interior shown is the Medieval Merchants house museum).
The economical factor should be taken in as well as the wealth of the area in general. Are most people peasants? Is there a huge difference in the classes? Is it a farming village? A port town? An industrial or Mining town? Is it constantly under attack? Pretty peaceful?
There’s plenty of other housing styles which I’d have liked to cover but it feels like it’s getting long already. You can look up Japanese, Venetian, African, Medieval Middle Eastern, and housing styles of all those cultures as well for ideas. Perhaps you can see how they work together (Some places in Spain have Islamic influences so you see a combination there, for example) and it might help you get ideas for your own house and city designs.
It’d be nice to see some creativity such as elevation, working with terrain (such as cliffs) and variation in cities rather than a flat grass land with copy pasted houses all over. A beautiful drawn example map would be this one by gamefan84. Cliffside, fortified, a very close source of water, not to mention multiple uses for it, and based on Middle Eastern towns/house designs.
Hope this helps, and let me know if I have any errors or inaccuracies in my post as it’s late and I want to sleeep.
Sat 4 Jun 2011
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
I asked some people about tips for making better maps. I also wrote some as well. Here you go! They are grouped by contributer.
By Ocean’s Dream
-When mapping, keep the exits of the area clear.
You want the players to know where they can leave the map instead of having it hidden by excessive plants or in a way that doesn’t seem like an obvious exit.
-It is not always necessary to fill in space for a big map.
If you’re finding it hard, reduce the size of the map. Don’t just stick everything in your upper layer to fill space. The objects should have a reason for being there. Don’t be afraid of some empty space either. It is best to stick the objects and most of the detail out of the players way. Some games have lots of plants, cliffs, objects and all but they are inaccessible to the player, while there is a more simple path that the player can follow.
Having shortcuts to get past a big area you already went through
One nice thing to do is have a shortcut open up after you defeat a boss of a dungeon to prevent having to backtrack through the whole dungeon again. This is especially good if the dungeon isn’t a passageway from one area to another.
-Late SNES RPGs are very good examples of mapping.
Final Fantasy 6, Seiken Densetsu 3, Star Ocean 1, Chrono Trigger, games like that. There are maps around, you could try vgmaps for ideas on how they map.
Use colors and lines to direct the player
This is one thing they teach you in art, but it can apply in maps as well. You can use colors to direct players to an important point or somewhere you want the player to visit. Make one house in particular very bright and colorful while all the other houses in a town is dull, and players will want to check it out. If you’re just throwing color all over the map, players don’t have any particular focal point. A subtle use of it can hint at where the player can go without feeling forced.
Think of interesting themes for your maps
They should make sense but also spice them up a bit. Everyone’s been through FIRE CAVE, ICE CAVE, TOWER. What will your fire cave do to interest the player to your world rather than be a filler? Why is it there? Is it natural? What types of obstacles might they face?
Use landmarks to make points that the player will remember
If you make a very mazey cave but in the middle of it is some giant statue in an open room, and that statue is not repeated anywhere else, then the player will remember where they are when they see that statue again. It will also make that statue more important than if you just threw it all over the map.
Provide some variety to get a feeling of progression
Just being inside a cave doesn’t mean that the entirety of the cave should feel exactly the same. It will interest the player more if as they go along, the cave feels different too. Like instead of going through a brown cave with narrow corridors the whole time, something like this would be more interesting: “As they go through the narrow cave paths, it opens up into a big underground lake with natural bridges going through it. Going down lower, and you’ll see crystals formed that no one has mined yet. The rooms are bigger and different types of enemies live here who goes by scent rather than by sight. As you go, there’s a path up to an opening, where you see the outside and a hidden ruins of a civilization”. That is just an example and it would help to have some actual backstory and reasons for your choices instead of having them there for the sake of it.
Less can be more
Don’t just toss everything from the upper tile on the map. The plants and objects should also make sense in the environment that they are placed. Don’t go placing cactus plants in an area that shouldn’t have them. It’s also not a goal to hide all of the floor tiles. Bare floor tile is not an enemy.
Try sketching out your ideas first!
You can try planning your map on paper first before you take it to RPG Maker. See how areas will connect, get a general layout, maybe scribble in some puzzle or gameplay ideas as well. It could help give you an idea of what to map in the editor itself.
Be consistant in how objects in game work
If you talk to a dresser in the beginning of the game and you don’t get any message or anything from it, then you’ll assume that dressers don’t have anything in it. Don’t go and place an important plot item in a standard dresser then, because the players won’t check it because they learned that dressers don’t give you anything. You want to build off of what the player has learned, not just break it whenever you feel like.
Think about the mood
Think about the mood you intend to convey with your area and define the shape of the walking or playable parts of the map based on that.
Every map is split into playable and unplayable area
Most maps are very simple when you just look at which parts you can walk on and which parts are just decoration. So stake out the walkable area in your blank map and make that work then fill out the rest with thousands of trees.
Ground tile variation
To make open areas look good the key factor is ground tile variation people rally against ‘too open/empty’ maps but if you vary the ground a lot it looks fine.
Think of the Maps Composition
The map has to have some sort of composition the same as a photograph does. It has to direct the audience’s eye. The playable and non playable parts must be easily distinguishable to human vision.
The function of a ‘road’ (dirt tile) going through a forest is to guide the player’s eye as much as it is to make it feel like “Yeah there is a path in this world”.
Outdoors can feel more alive with some activity from animals or people. Keep in mind though setting animals and people’s paths to random will hurt more than help. Have people follow a set path or be doing something that makes them look busy or something with a purpose. Animals move in a variety of fashions as well. Birds may fly slow at first then quickly, and perhaps even dive. They may hop from tree to ground to tree. Squirrels and rabbits may scamper for a while, then pause briefly before resuming, and squirrels may even climb up into trees.
Indoors people should also be given a purpose such as cooking, cleaning, reading, writing, playing, or a number of activities one may do indoors. Avoid dropping a person who moves randomly and says inane garbage.
Special effects aren’t simply limited to Fogs, Screen Shakes, etc. Remember the Show Animation with careful use and a bit of creativity can be useful in special areas, or during conversation. It can be looped with a parallel process and a wait time as well.
References can help greatly. Whether you reference another person’s map, a drawing, or a photograph, you can figure out how to make your map look by referencing, which will help you during the beginning of mapping. Just remember nothing is better than studying and learning, so try to figure out why something is the way it is.
- Get used to the scale.
It’s the sort of thing you don’t really think about when you know how to map, but it’s an important lesson to learn. At any given time, the player will get to see that 17×13 (or equivalent resolution dimensions of other makers) section of the map. This means that the 100×100 map that looks fine in editor may be completely off in the player’s experience. Play-test your maps, experiment with different map sizes and post in-game shots when looking for mapping critique (I can’t stress that last part enough). This is also something I would recommend to seasoned mappers, as well. I’ve seen a few maps that have extraordinary detail, but it’s placed in such a cluttered way that its effect is entirely lost.
- Function before aesthetics.
A lot of emphasis is put on visual appeal in mapping, but function and context are ultimately what decides if your map is good or bad. Take a square room with straight walls, uniform floor and 3 objects, for example. If its function is a puzzle room where the player slides around a boulder onto a switch, the map is great. If, on the other hand, it was an NPC home with a bed and a table/chair, it’s probably a bit too bare and boring. By the same token, an enclosed and cluttered NPC home can be charming, while an enclosed and cluttered puzzle chamber is frustrating. While mapping, think about what purpose the map has in your game. It doesn’t always have to be cutscene/puzzle/quest either. You can have maps that teach the player about the game world and the characters, or small maps that give the player a break from talking or fighting (ex. a lovely park with a fountain in the middle of a bustling town). But remember that the player wants to playthe game, not just look at a series of beautiful screens. That long, winding path in the woods may look very natural, but if the player has to press up, left, up, right, down, right, up, left, up to move through it, it loses its charm. Not that the path should be straight, mind you. It’s just that it shouldn’t be an obstacle course to get from A to B, especially when this is the case with every map.
- A few small details can make a big difference.
A couple sacks of flour and two large ovens turn a faceless and generic shop into a bakery. Piles of clothes on the floor and dishes in the sink make it clear that the NPC living in this house is a lifelong bachelor. You can tell a lot about a person or a place by bringing attention to small details. Omitting a detail can also make a place stand out by creating a contrast. If first four towns you’ve created had flower planters and you don’t add them to town #5, the player will notice and may be curious about it. The key, here, is to only use a few. Using too many details or objects at once makes it hard to focus and you lose any impact you may have had with your details.
- Be conservative with the use of fogs, screen tint and weather effects.
Yes, you can create an extremely powerful atmosphere and mood by using a fog or a screen tint. You shouldn’t, however, use it on every map. If you use special effects often, the player gets acclimated and virtually stops seeing them. When that happens, you’ll have a much harder time creating memorable/important areas or events. Try to keep special effects for special areas. It is far more impressive to see fog roll from a lone tower where the bad guy sits if you haven’t seen the same rolling fog in the cute bunny forest.
Wed 27 Apr 2011
Posted by Ocean's Dream under Game discussion
When you are mapping a town, you have more to keep in mind than just “How do I fill up space?”. The town shouldn’t just consist of 3 shops, 2 filler houses and NPC girl going in circles around a flower field if you want the players to make it feel like that’s a realistic or memorable town.
When mapping a house, you would need to keep a few things in mind. How rich is the area? What kind of architecture does the town have? Does it borrow from real life influences (based on x country architecture)? What kind of person lives in that house? Does the interior reflect the shape of the exterior?
This is important to think of. You can see a lot of new people who start out mapping (or also lazy people who do maps) who make houses the same exact simple box shape and just copy/paste it around. Oh, the shops have SIGNS on them! And the properties are only varied slightly on having some different plants around.
In this town, every house is looking the same. You can tell they’re all average but nothing else can really be said about the occupants there other than that one owns an item shop and the other an Inn.
In a time when people can design their houses and all, then you can have the houses reflect how many people there are in it, how wealthy/poor the house owner is, if it’s a business or not, things like that. Maybe an Inn wants an outdoor pool and a courtyard. Maybe the weapon shop is also the persons house. Maybe it’s a giant indoor market instead of individual shops. Perhaps a two floor house, or a long house, or a farmhouse. Variety is really helpful in a town, and can also help the player recognize where they are instead of getting lost due to the same looking houses over and over.
In this example screen, you can say a few things about the people who own the houses. In the house on the left, you can say they’re fairly well off, and love flowers and gardening. A fence is set up to protect the flowers. In the one on the right, it looks like a wealthy owner. If it were an Inn, you could say it was doing really well, and probably charge a lot for it. It might have many rooms, or perhaps different things in it such as a pool.
It doesn’t need to be just the shape of the houses. What’s in them is also dependent on who lives there and what they do. Maybe they have certain hobbies and have part of their house dedicated to that. Think of the NPCs as real people, and it can give you ideas. Some people are really neat. Some people are very disorganized. Some people keep everything given to them. Some people use up a lot of space for their hobbies while others really don’t. An NPC that paints might have some space set up for paintings, artwork and all. They might also have artwork around the house.
It could also give you something to think of for their dialogue! For example, based on that painting NPC again:
“Hero: Interesting painting I see here.”
“Painter: I was commissioned to make it. It was meant to be for the temple of Sunfields in the west. I think you’ve heard of it? Well it was in the works but it got haunted. It’s a shame, they paid good money for this.”
*Hero goes off to the west and clears up the haunted temple problem*
Going off of the personality of the NPCs can help give you inspiration for what to put on the NPCs yards, how to design their house, and the interior of the house. It can put more detail in the world and more into how the NPCs life is like and everything!