The Design, Experience & Feel of Adventure/RPG Game Overworld Maps

Discussion in 'Games' started by The2ndQuest, Oct 14, 2010.

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  1. The2ndQuest Tri-Mod With a Mouth

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    Jan 27, 2000
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    Kind of a random subject grabbing my idle interest right now, but I wanted to discuss the world maps of adventure (Zelda/Gaia/etc) and RPG (FF/Golden Sun/etc) games (however it's quite posisble other genres are applicable as well). Though 2D comes to mind more prominently for such things, 3D titles are just as valid.

    What has grabbed my interest is the thought/observation that, while they obviously must serve the gameplay in some fashion (be it progression of storyline, difficulty or balance), a lot of the more memorable maps (such as the Zelda series) aren't just because of their title's success/noteriety, but the impressions facets of it bring to the player on the micro-experience level.

    In other words, it's not just the game design, but the "feel" of the map that can make it more successful/memorable. Sometimes it's your personal perception/interjections of the environment, but it's what anchors the experience.

    What I'd like to go over here are elements of maps from various titles that inspired unique gameplay experiences- whether they were ones just for you out of a nostalgia, or ones more universal that convey key impressions, concepts, challenges or narrartives. Or, simply ones you thought were pretty neat/unique in general.

    Essentially, your anecdotes, experiences, or simply your observations and preferences.


    I'll use Zelda II as an example (since many of us have probably played, or at the very least, seen it's map):

    Now, beyond the massively increased scale over Z1's overworld, you (I) have the initial feeling of finding sanctuary/haven in a few of the early areas- notable the North Palace, Ruto, Rauro and Saria towns. They have the general feel of being the center of civilization, away from the dangers of the wild (though such dangers can be encountered in your journies between these locations).

    Even the nearest palaces/dungeons have a certain sense of... commonality- a quantfied known. Parapa Palace, despite the active enemies within, feels like something that's been raided and plundered before- many have come before you, in other words.

    Midoro Palace is tucked away in a swamped-filled valley, and while it feels more threatening, if might be more because of the swamp terrain itself, teeming with dangerous life, than the Palace itself. But it comes across more like the bee hive of the area-don't go near it, and it'll leave you alone.

    However, as you start to go further and further away from what you perceve as "civilization", such as Mido, you start to like you are on the outskirts of it- and a sader frontier with the massive graves and such nearby.

    Though you see a raft port, you assume it's related to the island areas visibly nearby. You're starting to believe you know the world you're in, that you've seen most of it's scope, and that your goals ahead simply lie within it's secrets. Until you use the raft...

    ...and discover a whole new continent.

    And if the sudden, significant expansion in the size of the world isn't enough, you soon discover that you're now in the Odyssey-like region of the world, where all the ancient dangers now lurk, barely disturbed by civilization, if even rarely glimpsed by it. You're off the edge of the map- and here, there be monsters.

    It's just such a great "holy crap" moment that instantly strips much of that confidence you've gained through the familiarity of the regions already explored to which you've powered up enough to easily master. Now? The world's made you smaller, and your power-ups won't be enough to allow you to walk around unscathed or unhindered.

    And it's achieved simply through a map design.
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