The pros and cons of an overland map

BurningDaedalus

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Hi all,

Hopefully, I'm in the right sub-forum for this.

I'm in the very early stages of an RPG project (using RPG Maker VX Ace) and I was wondering what your thoughts and preferences were in regards to using overland maps in role-playing games. I'm not sure sure I'm a big fan of them; while they're useful to connect various regions on a very large map (ie. the entire planet), I find that it takes away some of the immersion on a more region-esque map (the character will eventually end up at the edge of the map/bump against a convenient and impassable mountain range/etc.).

Do you prefer normal, exterior-tileset-like connected regions (à la Zenonia 1) or must you absolutely have an overland map (à la Final Fantasy VI)? What do you guys and gals think?

Thanks.
 
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How about a combination?

You walk from map to map normally, but when you enter a vehicle, you see the overland map?
 

Berylstone

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Hi all,

Hopefully, I'm in the right sub-forum for this.

I'm in the very early stages of an RPG project (using RPG Maker VX Ace) and I was wondering what your thoughts and preferences were in regards to using overland maps in role-playing games. I'm not sure sure I'm a big fan of them; while they're useful to connect various regions on a very large map (ie. the entire planet), I find that it takes away some of the immersion on a more region-esque map (the character will eventually end up at the edge of the map/bump against a convenient and impassable mountain range/etc.).

Do you prefer normal, exterior-tileset-like connected regions (à la Zenonia 1) or must you absolutely have an overland map (à la Final Fantasy VI)? What do you guys and gals think?

Thanks.
I've never played Zenonia so I can't relate directly to your question - but overland maps do hurt immersion.  But they also add a new layer of exploration and make using vehicles a lot easier.  So I guess it just boils down to your priorities as a designer.
 

Caitlin

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The biggest problem is that you are limited by how many maps you can have, our memory limit of sorts and there is only two ways around this.

1.  Connected maps similar to ZELDA, or SKYRIM, OBLIVION GATE like

-An open world where there are connected regions of large maps.  This idea works, but I wouldn't suggest it with limited maps (999).

2.  Final Fantasy VI 

-Yes, it does work, but honestly, there's very little exploration in this sort of map.  I love world maps, but this isn't the best out there.

3.  Chrono Trigger

-Chrono Trigger's world map was rather small, but if you created a much bigger world using this method... it would be a lot better than Final Fantasy VI.  Chrono Trigger, you went into areas that were much bigger and had a lot more exploration in it.  You didn't fight battles on the world map, only went from point "A" to point "B".  The dungeons, however, I thought were very well done and I think more people should explore this sort of world map.

But that's just my thought on the whole concept.  If you had bigger open areas, a world map would be a good place to ensure that people didn't go places that they didn't unlock or discover, yet.  
 

RKDV

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I was wrestling with this question for awhile. Here are the couple of instances I thought of
 
1: Connecting maps similar to Ragnarok Online. See the attachment for this.

2: Making World "Region/Continent" maps, giving the illusion of a bigger world. You could utilize a mini-map for the overall world if you really wanted (this is what I went with)

3: For a more linear style, use a "point-to-point" style world map, similar to Final Fantasy Tactics or Pokemon.

Hope this helps! ('_')b

Worldmap.jpg
 

Andar

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It all depends on how big your maps are, how "controlling" they are (railroading the player with only few exists or allowing free movement?) and what you want the player to experience.

World maps don't automatically destroy immension into the story (in my opinion), it depends on how they're used and how the story is organized.

A world map should be used to allow free movement and exploration to players who want this. If the "world map" is only a simple overview with fixed routes moving the player between locations, then kick the world map and connect those locations directly. Such kind of "world maps" are probably the reason why some player hate them.

A good world map should allow fast movement between distant detail maps, and it should give reasons to go there instead of being a big empty space. Of course, creating such a world map is a lot more work than the simple overview maps - but if there is any map in a game that could be created within minutes, then that map is probably a waste of time (player time and developer time) anyway.
 

Omnimental

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I'm not overly fond of overworld maps outside of things like airship travel.  Besides scale issues (size/travel time/etc), I find overworld maps can pull you out of immersion into the game world.  I'd much rather have a lush, detailed world to travel through, even if it takes longer.  All the better if there's some sort of 'fast travel' option that activates once you've visited a place.

If exploration and a sense of travel on a grand scale is important to your game, I'd use overworld maps.  If you're looking for a more intimate feeling, I'd avoid them.
 

BurningDaedalus

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I'm not overly fond of overworld maps outside of things like airship travel.  Besides scale issues (size/travel time/etc), I find overworld maps can pull you out of immersion into the game world.  I'd much rather have a lush, detailed world to travel through, even if it takes longer.  All the better if there's some sort of 'fast travel' option that activates once you've visited a place.
That's pretty much what I think, too. I thought about using some sort of fast travel option but, then again, this ALSO affects the immersion negatively... the pros of this method are obvious (less hassle, not redundant, etc.) but, then again, Morrowind didn't have fast travel like in Skyrim (aside from Silt Striders and Mage Guild teleports) and I found the former game of the series to be THE most immersive one...
 

Omnimental

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It's entirely an immersion vs frustration issue.  If the player needs to backtrack a lot, it's a good idea to include fast travel or they may decide all the wasted time traveling isn't worth it.  Morrowind is a bit different in this regard because the game is open-ended by design.  It's about where you want to go, not where you need to go.  More linear RPGs are usually objective driven, where the goal isn't exploration and discovery as much as it is completing the objectives and furthering the main story.
 

Espon

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I don't use a world map for you to walk around on, but to instead show the scale of the world and allow you to quickly pick a place to visit.

It's kind of silly to find two towns that are about a forest apart when it really should take days to travel between on foot.  I rather not make a few dozen forest maps just to separate a couple towns because it feels more... immersive.  Instead I rather make every place look unique and be more memorable.

I like offering quick travel as it doesn't force the player to trek through places they've already been to, especially if they have to do it many times AND through a few dozen forest maps.

Bottom line is I want players to enjoy the game and not feel like it's huge chore to travel anywhere in the game.
 

kerbonklin

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My game is definitely going with the Zenonia / Sword of Mana style mapping, connecting all the towns/dungeons by regional areas of multiple map paths. There will be a map with the layout of the entire game world, and a town-teleportation system of sort later on in the game.

That reminds me, I should replay through Sword of Mana for ideas/map design tips.
 
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SLEEP

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World maps are a stylization of travel. Usually games which use them imply:

  1. Towns are not literally the only populated areas, just the ones important to the story. Most games do a bad job at implying this - Try to make larger towns take up larger sections of the world map.
  2. The time it takes to travel between towns is long and dangerous. Hence, healing items are usually tents, and random encounters occur. It's meant to imply a journey takes days, but shortens the time the player spends watching the journey, because the journey isn't what matters. The destination is nicely fleshed out, because that's what really matters.
  3. The whole world is affected by events in the game. Making a complete globe without a world map would be a nightmare, this shows in most games with connected maps having a smaller scale. The regions in pokemon are the size of small states. Earthbound is probably a country, and it's sequel, Mother 3 is similar in scale and takes place on a series of islands! Final Fantasy 12 is a region of a country - not the whole country. World maps can occur on small areas as well. contrast Final Fantasy 12 to other games set in Ivalice, or even it's sorta-sequel Revenant Wings. Although this is probably done because of how gameplay is structured, as every map is either a menu conversation or a battle. Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger, any game with a world map, the whole world matters in the story.
Since world maps are usually bad at communicating what they're trying to communicate, I tend to dislike them, but not to the stage of completely avoiding them. What does travel mean in your game? Is it the journey from one town to another that matters, or what happens at the destination? Think about it, think what matters, and go with the travel system that suits it the best.

Also agreeing with people who like fast travel.
 

Zechnophobe

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Overland maps are a way to abstract out long travels. That's pretty much it. If your game wants you travelling long distances but the details of the travel aren't important, use an overland map. Don't use it just because you are lazy though and didn't want to do a full map!
 

PsiioniicVII

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To be honest, both. This is going to sound like a dumb question, but is this supposed to be a big game? Because if it is and you don't want too much work, then an overworld map might suit you better.
 

BurningDaedalus

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To be honest, both. This is going to sound like a dumb question, but is this supposed to be a big game? Because if it is and you don't want too much work, then an overworld map might suit you better.
It's my first game so I'm gonna try to keep it short and sweet, so no. Basically, I was wondering is an overland map was an necessity in a JRPG...
 

DigitalAdhesive

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Of course it's not a necessity, but there are reasons why they tend to be used. No one is going to judge you for having or not having one, but whatever option you choose, make sure it makes sense for the kind of game you want to create and the amount of work you want to do.
 

Barron

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Smaller, detailed, and "livelier" maps > overland maps to indicate "grand scale"

It's better to walk through a single city that is vibrant and full of variance, than a sprawling world where it feels empty or "too much".
 

Diretooth

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I generally prefer overworld maps, though the 'Field' tilesetin VX Ace is somewhat lacking in my opinion.

I typically use the 'Exterior' tileset for the purpose of an overworld map. You can make large or small maps and can create an overworld 'feel' while having a lot of room for detail such as flowers and threes and whatnot.

(That, and you could potentially create an entire mountain range, though I have yet to make a decent one.)
 

Tai_MT

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I have no preference, 'cause I'm not a silly game designer or a silly gamer.

Here's what I like:

I like a map that serves the purpose it is meant to.  It doesn't matter if it's a Final Fantasy Tactics type map or a an overworld map like any other standard SNES RPG.

The purpose of a map is to connect one location to the next.  If an overworld map does that, I consider it a success and don't really think about it.  Doesn't matter how it's executed.

The actual issue boils down to what the RPG is and how to best serve the gameplay itself.

Oh, and here's a hint...  If an overworld map is "immersion breaking" for you, you're either thinking too much about the game you're playing and not enjoying it, or it's such a poorly designed game that you're noticing a minor feature that doesn't really have any intrinsic gameplay value.  It's like saying the main character's hair is very "Immersion Breaking" for you.  It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense since it's really more about style than substance.

Now, if you want actual pros and cons between differing map types...  There's really only one from a gameplay aspect.  Large overworld maps that connect biomes to each other doesn't feel that strange compared to having to make tons of small maps that somehow mimic actual "termination lines" of biomes.  How do you connect a desert to a mountain without an overworld map?  Very carefully and in a time consuming manner.  In the end, few designers will get it right either.  Often, it's just jarring when you were in a forest one second and then on a mountain the next.  It's as if the mountains just spring out of nowhere and exist by whim of God instead of actual nature.  Meanwhile, if you had an overworld map, this is less jarring because they are "generalized areas" that don't typically require a transition.

But, other than that, it's basically up to what you consider the most "stylish" for your game.  It's an "eye of the beholder" type of thing.
 

Berylstone

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I have no preference, 'cause I'm not a silly game designer or a silly gamer.

Here's what I like:

I like a map that serves the purpose it is meant to.  It doesn't matter if it's a Final Fantasy Tactics type map or a an overworld map like any other standard SNES RPG.

The purpose of a map is to connect one location to the next.  If an overworld map does that, I consider it a success and don't really think about it.  Doesn't matter how it's executed.

The actual issue boils down to what the RPG is and how to best serve the gameplay itself.

Oh, and here's a hint...  If an overworld map is "immersion breaking" for you, you're either thinking too much about the game you're playing and not enjoying it, or it's such a poorly designed game that you're noticing a minor feature that doesn't really have any intrinsic gameplay value.  It's like saying the main character's hair is very "Immersion Breaking" for you.  It really doesn't make a whole lot of sense since it's really more about style than substance.

Now, if you want actual pros and cons between differing map types...  There's really only one from a gameplay aspect.  Large overworld maps that connect biomes to each other doesn't feel that strange compared to having to make tons of small maps that somehow mimic actual "termination lines" of biomes.  How do you connect a desert to a mountain without an overworld map?  Very carefully and in a time consuming manner.  In the end, few designers will get it right either.  Often, it's just jarring when you were in a forest one second and then on a mountain the next.  It's as if the mountains just spring out of nowhere and exist by whim of God instead of actual nature.  Meanwhile, if you had an overworld map, this is less jarring because they are "generalized areas" that don't typically require a transition.

But, other than that, it's basically up to what you consider the most "stylish" for your game.  It's an "eye of the beholder" type of thing.
I've been trying to come up with an analogy to help explain why Over-World maps can have a negative impact on immersion for many of us. 

I'm not sure if you played Legend of Mana (an old play station title)?   The Over-World map on that game nearly ruined the game for me.  It was such a bland unadorned map connecting in great contrast such detailed and lush areas that it made the game feel clunky and mechanical.  When two dramatically different styles clash, it can break the mood. 

Similar to when I'm watching movies.  Especially movies of the historical variety.  I hate when they leave the scene to show maps and army icons moving around on a chessboard covered in parchment to set up a war scene.  It drives me nuts.  It's like I'm suddenly transported out of the movie and inserted into a history class.

The only time I think Over-World maps work is if there is heavy emphasis on exploration involved.  If the player feels like they are actually interacting with it.  Then I think it can add a new layer to the game that can be fun and worthwhile.  But if it's just used as a board for players to walk from one place to the next, I don't much like it and feel it causes the player to feel like they were suddenly wisped away from the game they were getting into.
 
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