Unfortunately, there’s currently no point in trying to fill the whole map with cool buildings – the game simply can’t handle it. If we could reliably do it, then the aesthetic value/sheer awesomeness of such a massive city would be a reason in itself! I love the idea of having far-flung outposts, monuments and grand buildings, ancient ruins, watchtowers and so on all dotting the map and connected by roads, even if half the buildings aren’t occupied or used for anything other than sheer decoration. I’d gladly build a grand library or mighty fortress knowing it will only get used once every few in-game months, if I could be confident that it wouldn’t bog the game down.
However, with the building editor prone to bugging out, and there being a hard-limit on how many items can exist in the world (not to mention a soft-limit on the number of buildings the game can deal with before the memory simply runs out), such massive construction projects rarely get to serve even the most decorative purpose. It takes so much effort to construct them that there’s no time left for gameplay – I’m not even talking about quests and storylines here (if the player is building such massive edifices they’re certainly going to be the kind of player who’s happy setting their own goals); what I mean is that there’s no chance for the hearthlings to live in the town you’re building. They’ll always be in temporary camps close to the latest construction site, or else trekking across the map to get to one/come home for dinner.
Nobody has even filled the current map in using insta-build or other console commands; and with the ability to make templates it’s possible to /IB a hamlet in a few clicks (the entire hamlet can be saved as a single large template, and then variations sprinkled in with each new one after the template is placed.) Even the largest cities we’ve seen have only filled a tiny fraction of the map, and some of those large cities made ingenious use of templates to speed up their construction.
As a final case-in-point, there have been a few chain games where players worked together to build towns and cities all around the map; and in most cases those chain games became too unstable to continue after only half-a-dozen villages were added. There were other factors contributing to that situation, but one of the big disappointments I remember from the one I took part in was that the hearthlings kept wanting to trek away to use a table or chair on the other side of the map, so each city/village had to be walled off during other players’ turns.
Stoneheath simply isn’t built to handle large distances or massive populations. We’re going to need to redefine the concept of a “massive city”, unless we all want to go out and buy supercomputers to be able to play the game. Of course, work continues to optimise the engine to allow larger constructions and larger populations; but even then we know that the expected limit is somewhere around 50 hearthlings. To support more than that would require giving up some of the more in-depth simulation aspects which make Stonehearth unique compared to, say, Gnomoria or Towns or the Impressions games (Zeus, Pharoah et. al.)
I think that from a gameplay perspective, the scale of the current maps only adds possibilities, nothing concrete. However, to access those possibilities, the player has to put up with increased travel time between different scenes of activity, and an increase in the game’s workload to run everything. So, most of those possibilities never eventuate to anything. By reducing the size of the map, we’re only giving up possibilities we never use anyway, in exchange for increased ability to actually do the things we never normally get to try out. And it’s not like we’d be completely giving up the ability to build massive cities, even if the map was 1/4 of its current size it would still be more land than anyone has currently filled up with buildings. If you wanted a single major city in the middle, some impressively long roads winding out from it, a bunch of unique villages and clearly defined regions, and a handful of massive edifices scattered throughout… you could easily fit that on a map 1/2-1/3 of the current map size, with room for wilderness around the edges in which enemy camps and such can spawn.