This will be an ongoing post containing my musings about world building. It will likely start very unsorted - brainstorming as it comes - and hopefully end up with a concept which in turn will fuel into further additons to the toolset (and engine), if needed at all.
1. Towns and houses
Doing towns and their houses right is a very key feature to me.
In order to make a town appear large we will need quite a number of houses (in contrast to small villages with maybe ten houses or so , larger towns should easily have a hundred+ houses). When houses from outside have the same scale as their inside, a town will occupy an immense amount of squares. IB2 engine can do this easily (with upcoming next reelase we can even blend in/out roofs of houses quite comfortably), but it will mean lots of rather boring walking tedium for the player. Especially since only a few hosues will have fleshed out interiors and relevant content themselves, while most of them will be just atmospheric cosmetics to make a town appear large.
Therefore, I currently favor the idea of making houses smaller from the outside and zooming into them upon entering (for the relevant houses, the others cannot be entered anyway). A foot print for a typically sized house might then be just 2x2 squares.
When forgoing a correct outer scale, I also can more easily opt for a perspective shift, too. I think it would be easier to have diverse houses more recognizable if I could show their front/street view/side view - in contrast to a top down/birds eye/ roof view. This way rich or poor houses or special buildings like churches, taverns, smithies or warehouses will be easier to draw and recognize for the player. It is the same break in top down perspective used for e.g. the party and creatures.
To make houses still express a perceived height and also to make walkable space easily recognizable I think I might draw the side-view houses on top of elevated terrain, using the new height system. A house gets quite a physial presence that way, casting shadow on streets and open places.
To enhance the perceived sense of scale I wonder whether to use smaller scale for party and props on town street level (and "normal" size inside houses). This makes the party appear at the "correct" size in comparison to house size again, but has the drawback of quite small tokens for party and props. Also, all graphic elemnts coming directly from tiel graphics (ie tile layers) retain their size... I will likely have to play around with this, but I find the idea of a miniature party moving through the streets of scaled down houses intruiging (with zoom in upon entering a relevant house).
2. Landscape and towns (as well as all geographical hotspots)
Even when shrinking houses to say 2x2 squares a city will occupy quite some space. Imagine 15 x 15 houses with some spacing between them for roads, plazas, etc. A city will easily grow to a dimension of 50x50 squares, walls and all included, so we talk like 3 screens times 5 screens, like 15 screens . For a city itself, that seems fine to me, but for a country side with a few major cities and many villages this has bloating consequences. The space between settlements should obviously be much vaster than many times the size of each settlemnt.
Therefore, I think a third zoom out level for overland travel (between cities) migth be cool to have.
Zoom (closest, rough idea: a square is maybe 2x2 meters, 4sqm): in house, in dungeon, at specific detailed outdoor scene
Time passing per step: 1 minute maybe (averaging in little breaks, discussions, mundane stuff, this is not a strict straight line movement speed obviously)
Zoom (middle, rough idea: a square is maybe 6x6 meters, 36sqm): in city/village, in other landscape hotspot region (a special forest,/swamp/valley, etc.)
Time passing per step: 3 minutes maybe (see above)
Zoom (farthest, rough idea: a square is maybe 200x200 meters, 40000sqm): overworld, between cities, bird's eye on the main geographical features of the world, a city would be about 2x2 squares this way.
Time passing per step: 10 minutes maybe (note that this assumes a more directed travelling and therefore a higher speed)
Travelling between two cities 10 km (=50 squares) away from each other would take about 500 minutes, ie about 8 hours. Fair enough, wenn factoring in carrying equiopment, breaks, worse roads than today, being on the lookout for danger, scouting for adventure, etc.
When using means of transportaion, passage of tiem per step could be reduced (like on horse back, in carriage or on boat).