A discussion about World Maps

Corax91

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Hi there,
I am pretty new here, this is my... second or third post I guess, but I read this forum for a while, Game Mechanics Design more than others.
I would like to start a brainstorming discussion about World Maps. Explorable World Maps have been a pretty standard feature in JRPG for some decades, starting from NES era to PS1/N64 era, then they started to disappear, being replaced by a sort of mini-dungeons to link cities and main dungeons (e.g. FFX/XII, Octopath Traveler and others). My question is: Which one do you prefer? And Why? What are the Pros and Cons of a (fully or not) explorable World Map? And What about the link-dungeon?

IMHO Fully Explorable World Maps are fascinating and offers a way to extend the exploration besides the main quest, introducing bonus and hidden locations and giving the player the freedom to visit different places in the orded he prefers. A sort of "reduced" Open World system. On the other side, They have always been a bit empty, with fields whose only purpose is to grind and pretty no other npcs.
Link-dungeons are more unique and they could be more attractive, with npcs (and then sidequests) and objects to interact with, but it is not so easy to include hidden locations in it and there is less space to explore.

It should be wonderful to have something in the middle, but I can figure it out how it can be made. What do you think?
 

Tai_MT

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Personally, I enjoy the world map aspect of games. I'm fairly biased on it as I grew up with the World Map in RPG's and not with the weird "I just teleport to each new location" of modern RPG's.

The main reasons I enjoy a world map are for exploration aspects. I want to know exactly how this location connects to the surrounding locations. I want to explore around this location and see what it looks like. Likewise, the World Map can tease things you will get to later. For example, there's a town inside this circle of mountains. How do I get there? This world doesn't have airships in it... Is there maybe a cave that gets me there? Some event that transitions me there? What's there? Why does the dev need to block the whole place off and make it inaccessible to me? There's got to be some cool stuff there. I can't wait until I get to go!

Zelda: Breath of the Wild, largely captured this feeling as well. It had a massive overworld map and you could pretty much explore anything and everything right from the start. From the starting plateau, I looked out and went, "what is that? I want to go there!" and so I did. Granted, most of the land between where I started and where I was going was essentially barren wasteland with nothing in it to really write home about, but that was okay. There were enemies to fight to keep things interesting as I traversed... or sometimes difficult terrain to navigate which presented miniature challenges and miniature bursts of exploration on my way to where I wanted to go.

That is the fun of a World Map. At least, for me. Things to see. How is the world designed? What are these places I can see, but not get to yet? Are the monsters in this desert different from the ones on the plains next to the desert? Is there anything in the nearby area to explore? Oh, hey, this part of the map looks like a Dragon's mouth. That's kind of cool.

Though, to be fair... My games often don't include a World Map. Instead, they tend to be more about a HUB of some sort that simply links to other zones in a continuous world. I tend to prefer designing my world this way so that everything feels connected and the player gets to experience everything as they move along. Though, it does present its own problems of "backtracking" and rushing through areas you've already been to and already cleared with monsters that are too weak to be fighting. Still, the upside to this type of design can't be overstated. When the entire world feels connected like that, the player actually feels like they're on a journey. They can come back to previous screens and remember things from there. They can come back to previous monsters that used to give them issues and curb stomp them. Likewise, you can alter the terrain of these maps as the story progresses and offer new routes or new challenges based upon Quests that come up. You can reuse old areas much easier than you could with a World Map, where nearly everything on it is available at the start of the game.

With a traditional World Map, I like the "peace" the world map actually provides. It provides the "down time" of actually traveling between locations. Not many enemies to fight, lots of stuff to explore. Nothing really a huge challenge. Just some filler so that my brain gets a rest from the last dungeon I was in, or the last town I left. A chance to put my brain into "neutral" for a minute or two. I don't need constant engagement. I don't want constant engagement. It's exhausting.

But, there are other map designs I enjoy for different reasons. I enjoy "Hub" type worlds for making the "Hub" itself this place of "brain put into neutral" that normal map traversal would be. It also means that the moment I leave the Hub area, I'm going to get adventure and constant combat, so it becomes a choice of whether or not I want to be engaged or not, and I get to choose when to do so. I can also choose "how far out" I go from the Hub in order to get that engagement. Maybe I just want a couple levels, so I step one screen away from the Hub and fight easier monsters for a bit to gain levels or money or whatever, and come back to town to get a little stronger. There's a sense of progression in a Hub type world. Especially since Hub Worlds provide far clearer end goals. In a World Map, you just go from one location to the next because the game is essentially linear and the new location you found is where you're meant to be. Your goal is just to keep moving to the next location, whatever that location is. With a Hub, however, your goals are more short-term and far more tangible. The other side of this forest is the goal. The other side of the desert is the goal. The city capital on the other side of this mountain is the goal. These are goals related to map traversal.

Anyway, that's my two cents.
 

V_Aero

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Years ago I played Crisis Core, the first RPG for me in which I expected a World Map, but didnt have. Well, yes, maybe the storyline didn't allow this feature, but to me it was too bad that I was not allowed to revisit places.

I like World Maps. They allow me to faster travel to locations and give me a better overview of the world. Maybe changing from field to world map and vice versa reduces / breaks immersion of the world, and this is the reason they are gone, but this was never an issue for me. I still wonder the real reason why so mane game designers decided to leave them out.
 

Kes

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Maps are not a mechanic as such, so...

[MOVE]General Discussion[/MOVE]
 

somenick

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Yeah, I have been debating about whether to use world maps or not myself, and I kinda decided that, if the game will have some sort of exploration and optional places, world maps are probably the way to go. They make the world seem huge, while at the same time allowing you to reach places quickly.

World maps are probably a bit pointless if the game is a super linear experience without much to see on the side, though...
 

lianderson

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There was no need to move this thread. How you handle your game's world map is totally a game mechanic. Ya'll just got too many sections on this site. This is literally the reason why I haven't created a new thread in years.

Anyways, back to the op, I personally do the middle option, which is an interconnected world. Meaning, all the maps are logically connected to one another. Now, that alone in and of itself isn't a middle option, but when you bring in the fact that sailing around the traditional world map shows the traditional world map view, then yeah, it's becomes a mix of both worlds. Or in other words, a middle option. Hope this gives you some ideas on what to "mechanically" do for your game.
 

Lornsteyn

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I like worldmaps, every RPG needs one.
Its good for exploration or secret locations and you get a better view on the games world.

I have to support lianderson, a world map is a game mechanic.
 
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I liked how Final Fantasy IX handled the world map, with a chocobo minigame that required exploration for a global treasure hunt.

There are also places in many games' world maps where certain monsters can only be found, adding to the fun of exploring.

Making different regions and locations on a world map actually matter to the gameplay experience is key to making a good world map, in my opinion.
 

TheoAllen

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I'm indifferent. I'm usually ignorant of the game lore because I'm playing a game except when the game lore hooked my interest, I try to explore further.

That said, in the linear game which probably often focused on the story, as a player, even though I probably play the game for gameplay anyway, it is nice to see how it connects. It is a sort of trivia I would like to know. Even if the map is just a presentation of "where you are right now" and not exactly functioning as fast travel or walking through the map.

On the other hand, if the game is more open and explorable, it needs a world map for an immersive experience. Whether the map is walkable or just pinpointing where you want to go and fast travel, it depends on the game goal. Walkable requires time the player to actually travels from point A to B, and if there is an interesting event between the path, that would be good. Pinpointing fast travel is usually for simplified gameplay.

For the 2D game format, I prefer pinpointing fast travel and simplified gameplay mainly because I could not get an immersive experience. For the 3D game, I prefer walkable path.

On an unrelated note ...
This is literally the reason why I haven't created a new thread in years.
I don't understand the relation. Just because thread moved too often, why would you not create a thread? It is not like it's a bannable offense AFAIK.
 

Corax91

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Thank you all for these replies, and sorry if I opened this thread in the wrong section. I consider the overworld approach offered to the player a game feature, that's why I put this in Game Mechanics section, but anyway...

I like to see that traditional world maps are still appreciated for many reasons. As said, I love the role they cover in exploration and how they can add depth to the world lore.
The game I am working on is set in a single Nation but I would like to add secret/optional locations which you can notice and reach only if you heard about them or if you saw them and you have been able to find a path. My current idea is to introduce a world map, even if it will not be massive at all, with some "life" in it.
As an example, if you are moving through the main road which connects two cities, you could meet some merchants who can show you their stuff or ask you to help them to reach the city safe, while if you are walking into a forest (even if it is not a dungeon) you could meet a hunter who will tell you about a legendary beast which can be found somewhere.

Right now I can't decide if it is a good idea or not, but I think it is something in the middle and it could be a "fresh" way to make a world map. What do you think about that?
 

Black Pagan

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I have thought about this while working on my Game. An in-between solution that you speak of is what i went for.. I decided to make a Rogue-like Tower Dungeon. This would not be either an "Exploration Map" or "World Map" but you could link smaller maps with each other as long as their "Common theme" is retained.

Think about it, A Bunch of Heroes climbing a Tower Dungeon, Floor 1 is Forest, Floor 2 is Marsh, Floor 3 is Ruins. That takes away the Links perfectly and serves the same purpose as a World map while letting you minimize the content so you only need to work on Mini Content (The Floors themselves). So, a Tower Dungeon is my Solution to something in-between a World Map or Adventure Maps. Also, Dungeon games are Popular lately with the re-emerging of Rogue-like Genre.
 

gstv87

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world maps are a cheap way to implement teleporting without actual *tele*porting, and world travel without *world* travel.

if you can't afford to make the whole world to the detail level you want, but you still want the player to not instantly teleport between places by decree, use a world map.
if you're going to add encounters on the world map, you might as well make the whole world as an open map, and add the encounters there... it'll feel much more adequate.
the actual size and expanse of it depends on what you'd deem "time-worthy" both at design time, and at play time.
if during play an area seems to large, cut it down..... if you can't afford the time to make a large area, dont... re-engineer it and add obstacles to limit the player's movement, and just make what needs to be within the player's view.

(note to self, as I'm writing this post: )
physically enlarging an area can also help with limiting it, as nearby point of interests will be further spread apart away from the user's view, which, when coupled with clever obstacle placement, walling and decorations, can make an area appear virtually larger than it physically is.
for example: if you move the fountain of a city way away from the plaza, and the only path between them is a narrow street with buildings to either side, you don't need to make the whole block of buildings and their roofs, because the player can't possibly get there while restricted by the street passage.

think in terms of field of view, and field of view *measured from a point*.
if the player can't move from that point, there's no point in making what's beyond that FOV.

So, a Tower Dungeon is my Solution to something in-between a World Map or Adventure Maps. Also, Dungeon games are Popular lately with the re-emerging of Rogue-like Genre.
another way of implying size without showing it, used to great effect in Half-Life 2:
the player gets down into the mines during the night of one day, and emerges from the other side at dawn of the following day.
that, coupled with the music choice for that moment and the sound design, conveys the message of "you've been here for a while, you're a world of distance away from where you where, and oh boy, you have no idea what has been going on while you were away".
granted, HL2 is strictly linear, so they must use that approach.
in an open world RPG, there needs to be a way to bypass that area if needed.
 
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lianderson

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@TheoAllen Every time I've ever made a thread on game mechanics, it was moved like this one. One might ask, well, what's wrong with a thread being moved? Well, it's simple... just look above you. The poor guy is apologizing for something he thinks requires apologizing. And here we are, wasting our time talking about it.

I sincerely hope that in terms of moving around threads, the rules get more lax in the future. Cause if they do, not only will this place get more activity, it'll just be more enjoyable for everyone.
 

Tai_MT

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A bit off-topic, I know, but I've always found it incredibly confusing as to what is and is not a "game mechanic" to the moderators here.

For example: I would consider the act of map traversal to be a mechanic (even specific map design features like shortcuts). Especially in how it is accomplished and what its purpose is. But, here we are, a moved topic.

A while back, I even posted a topic in "game mechanics" about "Quest Journals" and "Quest Compasses", which I do consider a "game mechanic" as depending on implementation, it changes how the player interacts with the world as well as changes certain aspects of the game (like signposting). But, it, too, was moved.

Personally, I would think anything that isn't "nebulous" doesn't belong in "Game Mechanics". You know, things like story, characters, what proper game balance is, etcetera. Meanwhile, anything the player directly interacts with and affects how they play a game, would potentially be a discussion on a "Game Mechanic".

Or, to boil it down to its most basic premise from my point of view:

Anything that affects player behavior in a video game would be a "Game Mechanic" while anything that affects player emotions would be a "General Discussion".

The distinction between what is and is not a "Game Mechanic" is rather... vague on these forums. Sometimes, I kind of wish we could get an explanation why something isn't a Game Mechanic for why it's moved, or we could get very clear distinctions. Maybe even the distinctions the mods are using.
 

Kes

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Just a quick reply as I'm on my phone atm.

A choice of mapping style is not a mechanic, it is the context in which your mechanics happen, in essence no different from the choice of genre between e.g. a horror game or a zombie apocalypse. That choice will obviously affect which mechanics will be appropriate, but is not a mechanic itself.

As for not moving threads so much - it is not helpful to have e.g. requests for.plugins in Resource Requests or general support. A thread is for the benefit of future readers with a similar query, not just the OP. Why would a plugin writer, for example, look in a section dealing with graphics and music to see if they can help? If everyone posted where they fancied, the site would soon descend into chaos. We see e.g. Deployment questions and plugin questions in Tech Support quite often. How will anyone know where to look if they want to see if an existing solution is out there?
 

Corax91

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Guys, please, It was not my intention to open a long discussion about forum policies, which seem fair to me. It is not a big deal to see this thread moved from a section to another, I explained the reasons why I opened it in Game Mechanics just for clearness.
Please, come back to talk about world maps.
 

Tai_MT

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@Kes Okay, this will be my last "off topic" reply to the issue, but I just wanted to make the argument that the OP's original post does not just ask for "personal preference". It does ask what are the pros and cons to specific types of map design. To me, this is a question of Game Mechanics. Especially since you would use specific types of map design to accomplish specific tasks and to implement specific Mechanics (for example, you may not implement "vehicle travel" in a game with no World Map, or you may implement teleportation/fast travel in a game that is just a series of linear interconnected maps).

I understand the reasoning of "It's about map design preference" not being a Game Mechanic. But, I thought it would've been a "Game Mechanic Design" for this question as it would cover the specific Mechanics of specific types of map design. I actually replied to the thread with that in mind as I found the idea of which types of maps are best suited for which types of mechanics to be more interesting than whether or not a majority of devs actually like World Maps.

Granted, all of us did answer what we prefer in map design, but a few did answer more towards the Mechanical side of specific map design as well.

I'm not arguing for it to be moved back to where it was. I'm just sometimes a bit confused as to what does and does not constitute a "Game Mechanic" in these forums as there's no listed criteria and what gets moved and what doesn't seems to be based on personal opinion of the mods.

I agree that everything should be in its place, and we shouldn't let things slide just to prevent people from feeling silly for a few moments for posting in the wrong place. I am not in favor of forum anarchy. Sometimes, a bit of concrete rules or a concrete explanation of the move would be appreciated. That's all.

Okay, I'm done. Sorry to inconvenience you, Kes, and sorry to inconvenience Corax91.
 

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