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is it too late for ironhide facepalm
Has this approach ever been used before in an RPG? Instead of stores, the towns have a lot of houses with artisan families, each with something different to sell. This would work even better in an RPG with item creation or bartering.

It could also make writing town NPC dialogue much easier, as the family members could talk about what they know best: cooking, smithing, leathercraft, etc.
D: Stop giving away the content of my game.
That's seriously what I'm working on right now.
Yeah, I hate the mega-large cities with the hard-to-find plot points, where you think it might require walking into all 60 buildings and talking to all 200 NPC's to get to the next stage of the game. In fact, if you don't have sprint shoes, I just hate towns that require a ton of legwork in general.

(Don't know what all has been said, I haven't read all four pages yet)

In addition to everything that's been said, I think it's neat when you have towns that are unusual for whatever reason. For example, in FF1, you can only revive characters in clinics or via the Life spell, so life becomes very inconvenient when your base of operations becomes the town without a clinic. More examples: towns that have an auction house, a coliseum, an extremely fantastic inventory of items, a blacksmith willing to make you an epic weapon, a dojo, or any number of other unusual mini-games / specialized stores. Also, it would be neat to walk into a town that was in the middle of celebrating a holiday; you don't see that much in RPG's, do you (don't say that you do)? Or a town with a zoo. You get the drift, you should be able to brainstorm 10-20 other things along these lines.

And if it's known that talking to NPC's is basically a luxury that isn't crucial to triggering a plot event, then I like to create dynamic dialogue, i.e. either using variables so that you have to talk to the NPC like six times before it starts repeating itself, or using a random number generator with fork conditions so that each time you talk to it, it randomly says one of six distinct messages.
In terms of general aesthetics and atmosphere, I think Final Fantasy 12 had the most impressive cities I've scene. But for the purpose of gameplay, Pokemon and Dragon Quest win. In these games, if the city is huge, it's generally because there is a shit load of stuff to do. I like cities with casino's!
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