The Daily Grind: What MMO has the worst possible maps?

When I think back about the ways in which MMOs have improved over the 15-ish years I’ve been playing them, my thoughts invariably turn to one of the biggest tools in your MMO arsenal. I speak, naturally, of the honorable map. Humble in stature yet great in impact, the map is how you know where you’ve been, where you’re going, and where you need to sell your garbage after you’ve gotten to your destination. Or they do now, anyway; for a long time I remember MMOs having maps that were only marginally better than “utterly useless.”

Seriously, I think I got more navigational help out of the pack-in fold-out map for City of Heroes than the actual in-game map for a disappointingly long stretch of that game’s lifespan. This is not the way a map should be.

Fortunately, maps are generally a fair bit better at this point, but several of them could still use improvement. World of Warcraft still lacks good labeling on the overall zone map as opposed to the minimap for things like vendors, and an awful lot of maps lack elements like Final Fantasy XI’s user-defined labels (which were a nice feature of some overall terrible maps). So what do you think, readers? What live MMO has the worst possible maps?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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52 Comments on "The Daily Grind: What MMO has the worst possible maps?"

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ZenJitzu

I’m putting in an honorable mention for Destiny 2’s minimap. It’s dots on an empty circle; you have to pull up the main map just to tell teammates where to go or where you are, and there’s no indications for the cardinal directions. Not even getting into vertical axis.

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Zen Dadaist

The old default planetmap in Anarchy Online took the cake interms of uselessness. A zoomed-out muddy brown mess devoid of markers and information. Absolutely awful.

There were community fan made maps that you could install, thankfully, which were miles better. With the rebalance patch in 2015 FC finally included a stripped down version of one of the fan map sets as the new default in the game client. Ironically, the player made Atlas replacement maps were excellent and contained tons of additional info such as rare spawns, loot drops, FGrid exits and so on. Way better than most maps in current games, even considering those that allow custom markers!

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Alex Malone

SWG’s maps were pretty horrible. Fine for getting around the larger areas of a planet, but unusable if you wanted to find something specific, like a vendor or profession trainer. Only way you could really do it was setting a waypoint for that specific thing.

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Fred Douglas

LOTRO. The Shadows of Angmar maps are all pretty good, but the recent maps are absurd, particularly in Gondor. Borderline useless.

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Будусов Виктор

Exactly the opposite. Old maps were fun but useless, new ones are much better.

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mysecretid

Most MMORPG maps give me trouble when trying to find things because, as my gaming buddy Shane and I used to joke, a 2D navigation map for a 3D world never seems to work the way you want it to work.

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socontrariwise

If the question was which HAD the worst I’d say Vanguard and SWG (hours of running over flat and undeveloped/undistinguished land?). But HAS … Shroud of the Avatar. Don’t even get me started.

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Toy Clown

FFXIV’s maps have been a nightmare for me in the past. One of the first times I quit was over not being able to navigate where my character was supposed to go. Playing it now, I’ve gotten used to it, but find it clunky.

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socontrariwise

I remember when it was just in beta prior to the whole Reborn thing. And every little piece looked the same because of the map part copy and pasting.
THAT was incredible. Don’t complain about today. ;)

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nobleeinherjar

I eventually came to adore FFXI’s map system. I had a lot of custom markers, and it broke my heart the day I returned to find them all gone (I guess because I had uninstalled the game at some point). Acquiring all of the maps in the game became one of my goals. Though actually pulling up the map and working its UI was always pretty clunky.

I remember SWTOR’s maps being pretty bad sometimes, mostly in that they highlighted that the planets themselves were glorified hallways.

But I can’t think of an MMO that deserves the award of “worst possible map.” I really don’t remember the maps very well in the recent MMOs I’ve played, which I guess means they functioned well enough for me. The thing I remember most is how improved EQ2’s maps were with the use of the EQ2Map add-on.

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Alien Legion

I can’t believe no one has mentioned SotA yet. Probably because no one is left playing.

Anyway, while they say they had great plans for the maps, at some point you need to realize that is not going to happen and have some sort of contingency in place aside from a user-created addon. I give Jakub White an enormous amount of credit for making the 3rd party app however.

Not only is the lack of mapping a huge issue, but zone design overall is terrible. One way in, one way out, no map, you need to travel the overland map which is brutally frustrating due to impassible terrain and, again, no maps, but throw in the near complete absence of ‘fast travel’ options and it is just a prodigious disappointment.

shibby523
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shibby523

Came here to say SotA as well.

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Robert Basler

As someone constantly thinking about how to make my game’s map better, a more helpful question would have been “which game has the best map and why?”

GW2’s map of Tangled Depths is by far the worst game map I’ve used. It is much worse than no map at all would have been.

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socontrariwise

Best in my opinion: UO, ESO (NOT the repetitive dungeon parts), early EQ2 zones – but BDO beats them all by far. The insane number of hidden nooks and crannies, little caves behind rocks, under waterfalls … I spend weeks just exploring a single zone searching for caves. ESO is second place in my opinion.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

Albion Online’s current map. Both in terms of layout and in terms of functionality/implementation:

(a) Layout of the areas and fast travel routes making half of the world irrelevant.
(b) Colors/arrows/markers that sometimes make it hard to find yourself or your party companions, especially in the middle of a panicky chase or a fight.
(c) Lack of functionality and good implementation of pings.
(d) Confusing orientation of the zones and their exits w.r.t. their relevant position to the neighboring zones on the world map, lack of a practical convention of direction (N,S,E,W w.r.t. the exits from the zones)
(e) … and the list goes on

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Rolan Storm

TSW/SWL, FFXIV and SWG.

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Serrenity

Definitely GW2:HoT seriously the single, worst mapping experience ever.

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Chestertonian

Without hesitation – FFXIV. I love the game, but the maps are horrendous.

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Nate Woodard

Obviously, my opinion here, but in terms of navigation, GW2 has one of the worst! I hate the style of it. I hate the features put on it. I hate the mini map, too! It’s all awful! They need to have a serious rethink about the mapping in GW2.

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Melissa McDonald

after thinking it over I have decided I kind of like the “blacked out” maps like EQ2 and GW2 where you have no idea what lies ahead until you discover it, then the map is revealed. Harder to do that in LOTRO where fans of the genre already have the map more or less memorized in their heads. They know the Shire is to the west, and Mirkwood is to the east, etc.

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Alex Willis

LOTRO: Very lore-appropriate and pretty, but hellish for actual navigation.

GW2: While the impressionistic style was really evocative in the concept art, it made for torturous navigation on the maps. Add in verticality? Kill me now.

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Utakata

Any map that has it’s objectives and/or nodes in a way it’s difficult to tell the object is above you, such as on a ledge or below you, such as in a cave. In short like me, all MMO maps fail miserably in the 3rd dimension. They really should start to incorporate Googles’ mapping tech into their game UI…where one can tell if the objective or node is inside the mountain or on top from various view points. But that’s my 2 cents a and pigtail on this subject. >.<

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Kevin

XIV’s Maps by far.

I get it, console game and all that, but it should not require as many steps as it does to swap map zoom or quickly change zones as it does in XIV. The Maps may look alright (though not particularly good in that respect either), but holy hell, using them is a pain in the ass.

Reader

Amen!

CapnLan
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CapnLan

I’m having a hard time with FFXIV’s maps right now. The main issue I have is that I’m colorblind, so I can’t see the circular mission markers on the map. They use some sort of light red or maybe a light orange I think and that blends in on the beige/sandy brown base color of the map. There’s also no indicators on whether something is above me or below me. So even when I can figure out where I’m supposed to go, I still have no idea where to go.

Right now my general approach is to read the quest info to get a general idea of where I’m supposed to go and then pull up my map and flail my mouse around in that area until the tooltip with the mission name pops up. I then head there and wander around as I have to figure out if the mission is underground in a cave or above me in the trees.

I spend more time figuring out where the mission is instead of actually completing the mission. It’s a miserable experience all around.

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socontrariwise

Good point, you should probably send Customer Support this as ticket, that is something I’m sure they would want to address …

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Oleg Chebeneev

SWToR. Not only map, it has crappy UI in general.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

wow’s default map is atrocious but luckily some of the addons are the best maps in the genre.

idk about now but swtor’s map is generally pretty fucking terrible.

i got lost and unable to find where the fuck i was in ffxiv in reborn beta. ><

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Modrain

I don’t know if they’re the worse, but FFXIV maps are certainly the worst I’ve had to use.

It takes me ages to find the information I want (e.g. where is that specific shop amongst the many shops that are all next to each other in dense areas). Navigating between overlapped levels is confusing. Navigating between zones is painful if you don’t know where are the switch points and there isn’t any striking coherence or continuous transition between them. The minimap itself don’t convey any sense of scale, and there isn’t enough details on it to compare what is seen in 3d with what is seen in 2d, especially when map borders are where your character can walk, not what you can see.

In my experience, FFXIV minimaps are useful once you already roughly know the world, what made them both pointless and frustrating for me as a beginner.

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squidgod2000

I always hated BDO’s world map. The 3-Dification made it difficult to use; roads weren’t clearly shown and it was tough to set a waypoint where you wanted. Classic example of trying to make something fancy instead of something practical.

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Crowe

At launch, I remember several guildies talking about how awesome it was. But personally, I detested BDO’s maps. Sure, the tech was cool but it made it very difficult for me to just simply use… which was sort of the point of maps.

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Thomas Zervogiannis

I had LOTS of reasons not liking BDO (especially its UI UX) but I actually liked its map, both in terms of looks and in functionality. What they can improve on is better search filters. Having difficulty to set a waypoint usually had more to do with trying to set the waypoint through a non-traversable route. Plus you could always just reorient it top-down to get a more 2D feel if you wanted.

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Veldan

Yeah it was one of the things I disliked about BDO. Indeed the 3D thing was too fancy, if they had stuck to 2D it could have been much more clear and easy to use.

pepperzine
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pepperzine

I completely agree, bdo’s map was very offputting to me. One of the first things I did when playing was try to find an addon to make it more bearable :/

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Lethality

The BDO map isn’t for navigation in the same way as other games… it’s a an interface that supports the game’s systems. The points of interest were clearly marked and you can easily set a waypoint to travel there.

It’s not trying to be fancy… it’s supporting the game in exactly the way it needs to. :)

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Melissa McDonald

I agree. Of course, BDO’s button for automatically taking you to the point you set isn’t a feature every game has, either.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

lmao

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Lethality

I’m not sure of the words I’m looking for here… maybe grow up applies?

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

sometimes i’m not even convinced you’re a real person.

Estranged
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Estranged

Oh, ffs

lulz

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starbuck1771

ARK

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Tanek

Probably does not strictly count as an MMO, but since it is covered on this site, I say valid choice. And it is the clear “winner” for me among the games I play.

Not only is the map near useless in general, it would at least act as a general positional guide if a) the player position was not wildly off on anything but the basic island map (even there it is questionable) and b) it did not reset at the slightest breeze.

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starbuck1771

Exactly as for being an MMO I would disagree since the term MMO has changed over the years. I’d call it a Massively Multiplayer Online Survival Game or MMOSG. :P

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Zora

Hmm I still don’t consider PoE an actual MMO even if it’s covered round ‘ere but if that qualifies, lord almighty their navigation map is dreadful.

I am told they reworked it for the better a little in the latest expansion though, so that might not be the case anymore… hopefully?

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Veldan

It was indeed changed (I started playing PoE again like yesterday) and it’s definitely prettier and more clear now.

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Rick Mills

Although I love Lotro’s Tolkien-like art maps, I wish the objectives were interactive on the map instead of from the legend. I know, I know, I’m lazy.

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Melissa McDonald

I think they kind of are? Anything in your quest tracker shows as a gold ring. Putting your mouse over a quest tracked there will make the ring glow, so you know which quest lies in what location, etc.

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Rick Mills

They “kind of” are – but you have to hover over the legend and then try to find the glowing ring – It would be so much better to (also) hover over the glowing ring and see what quest it is :) Picky, but important.
Plus limiting the tracker to 5 quests when areas always have a LOT is counter-intuitive.

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Legend Of Vinny T

You mean “Hunt the forge-master in every village in Rohan” isn’t your favorite mini game? /s

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ogged451

City of the Sun God in TSW/SWL has a shit layout. And it got progressively worse over time, first it became more crowded with issue 14 and in SWL they removed paths but added jumppads which you can’t use while dead.

Tizmah
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Tizmah

GW2 Tangled Depths. Just that one zone. Zone is confusing. Map is confusing. (The explorer in me still finds it fun though.)

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hugmonster

Oh, the Spaghetti Map… I hate doing map completion there so much…

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