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Dakota Day

world maps

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What has been the best world map both in appearance and function in any rpg you have played? I ask because there are probably a large amount out there that not everyone has had the chance to see or experience for themselves and I feel it would be helpful for some to have an idea as to what some potentially agreed upon aspects make for a good world map.

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It is hard to answer, but I got two favorites: Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall and Bard's Tale I . If you take a look at the games you will wonder why not oblivion or skyrim. The reason is the following:

Bard's Tale I had a mini world map, just a single town with only a few usable buildings, and every single usable building had some use. Daggerfall on the other hand had a large, procedurally generated world which delivers a generic, still living world.

 

When I play a RPG, I dont need all this story threads, and mindless talking about the common gossip. Modern games try to go into great details, but on the other hand they need to reduce the overall scale so much, that it is often cluttered with non-functional blah-blah and really small scale on the other hand. The result is often that you encounter villages with 5-10 villager, a dark castle, which is just 20 meter down the street, goblin hords consisting of 4 goblins and dungeons which are as small as your common medieval cellar.

 

Eventually, in my opionion, a world should be large  and a game should be functional and consistent. I don't need a detailed, unbelieveable world simulation, when it comes at the costs of really small scale.

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I'm inclined to agree with powerneg: design the map or overworld that suits your game. I don't believe that there is one universally-applicable design for the world map or overworld. For two examples, do you want random encounters in the overworld? Then you probably want an overworld that the player travels manually, or that at least shows progress on the map. On the other hand, if the player is going to be travelling back and forth a lot then it might be better to simply "teleport" the player to the selected location.

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Its not so much a universal design that I was looking toward so much as possibly creating a list of generally agreed upon attributes that made world maps from other games memorable and functionally sound.

just something that can give people a good general idea to use as a seed for their own unique worlds. I would like to note that one of the admins of the gamedev.net facebook page mentioned the world map from baldur's gate 2 as an example of one of the ones they thought worked really well.

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The thing is, no attributes occur to me--beyond general UI design, which applies rather more broadly than just maps and overworlds--that apply to any given game. The attributes that make one map good for its game might make it a poor choice for another.

 

 

I would like to note that one of the admins of the gamedev.net facebook page mentioned the world map from baldur's gate 2 as an example of one of the ones they thought worked really well.

But would that map work as well in, say, Infamous: Second Son, or Zelda: A Link to the Past--or at least better than the solutions that they used?

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I don't know if there are agreed-upon anything, but here's my take.

 

An "open" map where I can explore all I want (that is, an "overworld") should really reward the time I spend in traversal; there should be lots of things to find and rewards for doing so.  (Whether the "reward" is a new quest, or something valuable, or just "hey, that's an interesting thing on its own".)  On the other hand, if you've got a very lock-and-key world where the game is "plot increment, find the next correct spot on the map, repeat", then I'd rather *not* have the illusion that I'm supposed to be exploring.  It's a bit of a bait-&-switch: a big world full of findable places, but all the places but one are "Oh, sorry, this bridge is being repaired."

 

I just played Steve Jackson's "Sorcery!" and I quite liked the honesty of the world map traversal.  The structure of the game is a choose-your-own-adventure, and the map doesn't hide that.  If you have two options, there are two places you can move your character to; if you have five options, there are five places; if you have one option, there's one place.

 

Anyway, my principle is that a world map should honestly represent the freedom available to the player.

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I get what you guys are saying and that there is no one map design that can be used for just any game. I just thought that with all of the games out there and the different ways they go about doing their world maps/ overworld views and the like, there would be some form of general agreement on what in general has a good effect.

I agree that the map should reflect what is open to the player and should refrain from showing things that are not available for access. And that is the kind of input i had in mind.

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Well, that's general user interface design, I suppose--it's not really specific to maps.

 

Another such point might be to clearly differentiate interactive objects/icons/etc. from background elements: don't make interactive elements that are lost in the backdrop, and don't make backdrop elements that appear to be interactive.

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Also use a level of detail system.

 

Take a look at any of the Assisin's Creed franchise. They use fixed size icons for everything, so when you zoom out, it's impossible to find what you are looking for.

 

You can spend ages zooming in, zooming out moving the target, zoom in again....

 

They know it's an issue as they allow you to turn off icons for groups of items, but it's clunky and horrible.

 

IMHO when you zoom all the way out, only the main quest should be visible and you gradually introduce other types as you zoom in.

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On another note, is it easier to design the world around the quests or to have a world and make quests for the world? I think having the world makes exploration concepts easier but I am not so sure about quests.

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Also use a level of detail system.
 
Take a look at any of the Assisin's Creed franchise. They use fixed size icons for everything, so when you zoom out, it's impossible to find what you are looking for.
 
You can spend ages zooming in, zooming out moving the target, zoom in again....
 
They know it's an issue as they allow you to turn off icons for groups of items, but it's clunky and horrible.
 
IMHO when you zoom all the way out, only the main quest should be visible and you gradually introduce other types as you zoom in.


So would you view being able to hide the markers in a more broken down format an improvement? Such as being able to single out certain quests for view or even the option to group quests of your choice and have them be viewable when you choose to.

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A technique that works fairly well, and has been used on many games, you look at the quest list and have an option to "view on map", but it only works for certain types of quests.

 

Certainly giving the end user some control over what is displayed on the map is a good feature, it's how you implement it that can cause issues.

 

When it comes to something like a map, the useability is key.

 

If it takes 30 seconds to load the map, not good.

If you can do powerful filtering on the displayed items as long as you have three hands and a spare gamepad, not good.

If you can zoom in to an individual blade of grass as long as you sacrifice a goat and worship the great god Imhotep, not good.

 

Implementing a really good map isn't trivial and that's why you often get poor quality maps in quite good games.

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I wouldn't mind having the map screen and the quest screen be the same screen, maybe with the quest(s) at the top (or left) and the map filling the rest of the screen.  So you can press left/right (or up/down) to highlight an active quest, and its relevant markers are automatically shown at the appropriate zoom level.  (Maybe it also shows you other quest markers in that area, but not highlighted, 'cuz one thing players will want to do is see at a glance how quest-dense an area is when deciding to go.)

 

In other words, a system where "view on map" is the default view.

 

(I figure there are games that use this system, it's just that I can't recall which.)

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I wouldn't mind having the map screen and the quest screen be the same screen, maybe with the quest(s) at the top (or left) and the map filling the rest of the screen.  So you can press left/right (or up/down) to highlight an active quest, and its relevant markers are automatically shown at the appropriate zoom level.  (Maybe it also shows you other quest markers in that area, but not highlighted, 'cuz one thing players will want to do is see at a glance how quest-dense an area is when deciding to go.)
 
In other words, a system where "view on map" is the default view.
 
(I figure there are games that use this system, it's just that I can't recall which.)


World of warcraft had one like that. Not sure if it still does though. It used to be set up as a list on the world map I think and it had the option to hide the list of quests as well as quests themselves, although this may have only been with the use of quest helper but once again not 100% certain.

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