The pros and cons of an overland map

Tai_MT

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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 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.
I have never had that issue with any map.  And yes, I've played Legend of Mana.  The biggest drawback to that game is that it sucked in its entirety.  I don't think a better map on that game could have saved it from itself.  90% of the game was crafting things.  Crafting items so you could cast spells, crafting items to give yourself defense/offense boosts, crafting new places to go on the board, etcetera.  It wasn't so much a Mana game as it was a dev team full of jerks taking a piss all over the franchise.  By far, it's one of the weakest entries to the franchise, just behind "Children of Mana".

Yeah, I'm a fan of the Mana series.

All of that aside, I've never had a map "rip me out of immersion".  If the game doesn't immerse me to begin with, the map simply highlights the lack of immersion.  That's where the main issue lies.  You won't notice a map because it serves a single purpose.  It's a way to get from one place to the next in a short amount of time when the places are far apart.  It also serves as a "hub" so that you can go back to previous locations or have the freedom you need to go where you like.

On top of that, I tend to resent anyone that claims a video game has "immersion" to begin with.  If you are aware you are playing a video game at any time (which I always am, when I play), it has no immersion.  It may have a DEGREE of immersion, like with the story being told, but not with any kind of input you need to put into a controller.  Pulling up a menu breaks immersion, pausing the game breaks immersion, selecting skills from a menu breaks immersion, gaining a level and stat points breaks immersion, etcetera.  The difference between these very common things breaking immersion and someone claiming maps break immersion is that people who want there to be a "right way" and a "wrong way" to code or play or enjoy an RPG want everyone to use the same thing.  It's video game elitism.  It's the same argument that people were having and making about "touch battles vs random encounters".  Why does this matter unless someone is basically trying to force their own personal preferences upon other people?

As an avid gamer (though not as of late, since most titles in the last 10 years or so have tended to suck beyond measure), these things have always been "personal preference" to me.  Basically, non issues.  If a game doesn't have the map I want, I don't quit playing the game.  I don't go, "well, that's it, immersion is broken, no way I can play or finish this game".  If I'm enjoying the game and it has something in it that's not very aesthetically pleasing to me, I tend to just ignore it, no matter what it is.  Why?  Because I'm having fun with the game, and in the grand scheme of things, the way the "map" looks or works isn't all that important as long as it does its job.

If we're going to make topics on things that "break immersion", I'd like to start a list about everything that makes an RPG... well... An RPG.  Including controllers and dialogue boxes.  Including having to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the game.  "Immersion" in a video game is really only important to what I tend to call "elitists".  It's a way for them to make an argument about personal opinion seem like it has some sort of factual basis in reality, when it really is just opinion.  In fact, if you reread your post, you'll notice that right away.  You'll notice that you're trying to pass off your personal preferences for how maps are done and implemented as "fact" by saying they break immersion.

I know, I'm sounding like a mean douchebag right now.  I'm not trying to be mean.  I'm pointing out the trend of "immersion breaking" that's become a kind of buzzword in video game reviews and everything else in the last five years.  It's definitely one of the worst things to happen to the industry as a whole.

You know what "Immersion" used to mean in video game terms?  It used to mean that you were having so much fun with the game, you didn't care what was in it.  Breaking "Immersion" in a game, basically meant that something grinded the fun you were having to a screeching halt and kept the fun absolutely destroyed for the rest of the game.  Now it means, "anything I don't personally like and people shouldn't include in their games because of it".

I am really tired of hearing the word "Immersion".  It's a shameless cop-out that keeps people from having really good arguments and opinions on subjects.

Now, if I offended you, I'm sorry.  It isn't personal, it's just that you've hit my hot button by saying "Immersion".  I would've launched into this tirade against anyone who said it.

A map breaking "Immersion" is not a valid argument for the pros or cons of any map, as this is just personal preference.  From a GAMEPLAY or DESIGN aspect, we need proper pros and cons for one of these maps or the other.
 

Berylstone

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I have never had that issue with any map.  And yes, I've played Legend of Mana.  The biggest drawback to that game is that it sucked in its entirety.  I don't think a better map on that game could have saved it from itself.  90% of the game was crafting things.  Crafting items so you could cast spells, crafting items to give yourself defense/offense boosts, crafting new places to go on the board, etcetera.  It wasn't so much a Mana game as it was a dev team full of jerks taking a piss all over the franchise.  By far, it's one of the weakest entries to the franchise, just behind "Children of Mana".

Yeah, I'm a fan of the Mana series.

All of that aside, I've never had a map "rip me out of immersion".  If the game doesn't immerse me to begin with, the map simply highlights the lack of immersion.  That's where the main issue lies.  You won't notice a map because it serves a single purpose.  It's a way to get from one place to the next in a short amount of time when the places are far apart.  It also serves as a "hub" so that you can go back to previous locations or have the freedom you need to go where you like.

On top of that, I tend to resent anyone that claims a video game has "immersion" to begin with.  If you are aware you are playing a video game at any time (which I always am, when I play), it has no immersion.  It may have a DEGREE of immersion, like with the story being told, but not with any kind of input you need to put into a controller.  Pulling up a menu breaks immersion, pausing the game breaks immersion, selecting skills from a menu breaks immersion, gaining a level and stat points breaks immersion, etcetera.  The difference between these very common things breaking immersion and someone claiming maps break immersion is that people who want there to be a "right way" and a "wrong way" to code or play or enjoy an RPG want everyone to use the same thing.  It's video game elitism.  It's the same argument that people were having and making about "touch battles vs random encounters".  Why does this matter unless someone is basically trying to force their own personal preferences upon other people?

As an avid gamer (though not as of late, since most titles in the last 10 years or so have tended to suck beyond measure), these things have always been "personal preference" to me.  Basically, non issues.  If a game doesn't have the map I want, I don't quit playing the game.  I don't go, "well, that's it, immersion is broken, no way I can play or finish this game".  If I'm enjoying the game and it has something in it that's not very aesthetically pleasing to me, I tend to just ignore it, no matter what it is.  Why?  Because I'm having fun with the game, and in the grand scheme of things, the way the "map" looks or works isn't all that important as long as it does its job.

If we're going to make topics on things that "break immersion", I'd like to start a list about everything that makes an RPG... well... An RPG.  Including controllers and dialogue boxes.  Including having to get up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the game.  "Immersion" in a video game is really only important to what I tend to call "elitists".  It's a way for them to make an argument about personal opinion seem like it has some sort of factual basis in reality, when it really is just opinion.  In fact, if you reread your post, you'll notice that right away.  You'll notice that you're trying to pass off your personal preferences for how maps are done and implemented as "fact" by saying they break immersion.

I know, I'm sounding like a mean douchebag right now.  I'm not trying to be mean.  I'm pointing out the trend of "immersion breaking" that's become a kind of buzzword in video game reviews and everything else in the last five years.  It's definitely one of the worst things to happen to the industry as a whole.

You know what "Immersion" used to mean in video game terms?  It used to mean that you were having so much fun with the game, you didn't care what was in it.  Breaking "Immersion" in a game, basically meant that something grinded the fun you were having to a screeching halt and kept the fun absolutely destroyed for the rest of the game.  Now it means, "anything I don't personally like and people shouldn't include in their games because of it".

I am really tired of hearing the word "Immersion".  It's a shameless cop-out that keeps people from having really good arguments and opinions on subjects.

Now, if I offended you, I'm sorry.  It isn't personal, it's just that you've hit my hot button by saying "Immersion".  I would've launched into this tirade against anyone who said it.

A map breaking "Immersion" is not a valid argument for the pros or cons of any map, as this is just personal preference.  From a GAMEPLAY or DESIGN aspect, we need proper pros and cons for one of these maps or the other.
Well I think it's safe to say we disagree.  I feel Immersion is a valid part of game design.  And when developing a game I think it's important to try and keep the game as fluid as possible so the player doesn't feel interrupted by sudden changes that feel outside the game.
 
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Tai_MT

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Well I think it's safe to say we disagree.  I feel Immersion is a valid part of game design.  And when developing a game I think it's important to try and keep the game as fluid as possible so the player doesn't feel interrupted by sudden changes that feel outside the game.
The problem with that is that it's basically impossible outside of a tabletop game.

Anytime you open a menu, make a save, see a dialogue box...  It all breaks "Immersion".  You can still be immersed in the storyline, no problem, but it's hard to argue a map can break immersion when the only point of any map is just to move you around so you can talk to people or get through a dungeon.  It's a placeholder, in all honesty.  A visual aid.
 

Berylstone

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The problem with that is that it's basically impossible outside of a tabletop game.

Anytime you open a menu, make a save, see a dialogue box...  It all breaks "Immersion".  You can still be immersed in the storyline, no problem, but it's hard to argue a map can break immersion when the only point of any map is just to move you around so you can talk to people or get through a dungeon.  It's a placeholder, in all honesty.  A visual aid.
Menus and dialogue don't interrupt the game for me.  Not unless they are unnecessarily convoluted or something.  Many over-world maps don't either for that matter.  As long as they are interactive and allow me to explore and discover new places I don't mind them and feel they add to the game's enjoyment.

But those that serve as just a way to forcibly navigate you from one area to the next do hurt the game's immersion to a significant degree.  I feel less like I'm on an adventure exploring a new world when game's implement mechanics like this.  This is just my opinion.
 

Sharm

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I've been playing RPG's since they were first invented and the map travel never felt right to me. Menus and dialogue boxes are ways for me to interact with the game world but maps felt like a buffer between the characters and their interaction with the world they supposedly lived in. I didn't mind it so much on Chrono Trigger because since the characters were so tiny and there were no battles it felt like another menu. FF6 was the worst though, something about the tents emphasized the difference and made me feel like I wasn't being allowed to interact with that part of the game. It's not game breaking to me but it done badly it reminds me that I'm not looking at someone else's life, I'm playing a game that someone wrote. To me, that's immersion.
 

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Dragon Quest and on a slighter scale, Final Fantasy, does World Maps fantastically since you discover new, optional areas as well crazy treasures on caves. I never had an issue with it in terms of immersion. I will be honest that I prefer a world map than a string of maps if I ever wanted to discover new places. The idea of getting awesome swag appeals to me as well. I mean, come on, a boat, a ship then finally, that AWESOME AIRSHIP, F*CK YEAH!!! moments.


It makes my epic adventure really epic and I feel like my influence as a hero does reach far and wide. Even though most of the time, I loot them or scrap them from somewhere, but still.
 

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Something like Final Fantasy VII's world of course is not made in an actual scale. That world is full of villages, cities and stuff but that would be too much detail to handle in a sense of actually showing it on the map. This relies of course to your imagination about what they do and talk during those travels on the overworld map.
 
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