The Daily Grind: How important are minimaps to your MMORPG experience?

    
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MMO minimaps became the topic of a weird debate this week, as multiple sites appeared to have misunderstood a Belgian magazine’s interpretation of the Red Dead Redemption 2 minimap, which they said could be turned off in favor of NPC-directed navigation. The claim turns out to have been incorrect, but it prompted fun discussion all the same from MMO developers who’ve been dealing with the struggle over minimaps for decades.

“Well hell, I remember when we were forced to ADD minimaps because players refused to get directions from NPCs. :P” tweeted longtime MMO designer Raph Koster, who put it all down to the “vagaries of marketing” but welcomed it anyway: “Player demand for convenience won that battle oh, 15-20 years ago. I’m glad to see immersion coming back!”

I like maps period, and I especially like minimaps. They seem like such an essential component of MMOs – all the way back to Ultima Online – that if a game lacks one, I’m going to mod one in. I’m the kind of player who’s more immersed when I have context for where I am, and I don’t feel less immersed in real life when I’m in my car with GPS turned on and an atlas in my lap either.

But not everyone agrees. How important are minimaps to your MMORPG experience?

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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Briar Grey

I remember handdrawing maps or in the text MUD I loved just writing out directions (ne, n, n, go gate, sw, s, s, s,….) and worshipping the guy who made lovely maps to print out (oh Tsoran, I’d marry you for that except I already married someone from that game…). Somewhere there’s a binderful of maps.

I can do without a mini-map, for sure. It’s fine if there is one too.

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Sorrior

`i have found that it just doesn’t feel right without a minimap in mmos at least thanks to ESO

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donvweel

when I first started gaming rpgs we had to draw maps with pencil and paper to progress games like Wizardry until we learned them by heart. I don’t miss that so much anymore. These days I use my minimap to navigate all the time. When I did WoW my fav addon was Carbonite, mostly for it’s map.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

curiouser and curiouser.gif
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drelkag

Don’t mind the lack of a minimap. Enjoyed FFXI and ESO as much as I would if they had one.

hurbster
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hurbster

Always mod one in if i can.

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sophiskiai

I don’t mind not having a minimap – I find them useful but a bit distracting – as long as there’s some sort of in-game map I can bring up and look at. If a game doesn’t have any map at all then I hope the devs put a lot of work into environmental landmarks and immersive navigation aids, and had some thorough QA feedback on navigation from people unfamiliar with the game.

I think a lot of it comes down to the usual immersion-versus-access debate. Games can be as immersive as they want, so long as they don’t mind having some of their potential audience unable to play due to access/usability issues and more of their potential audience unwilling to play due to their gameplay preferences and/or limited time to learn their way around gameworlds.

Best solution? Put in minimaps, make them nonessential to gameplay, and let players who want immersion hide or disable them.

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Paragon Lost

Well hell Raph, I remember when we made our own maps before your mmo ever came out. Also we learned the area that after a while we just didn’t need maps. Personally I always enjoyed that aspect of world exploration. Mini maps aren’t important to me.

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Schmidt.Capela

I absolutely need some kind of map; whether it’s a minimap, an in-game map, or an external (perhaps even printed) map, I can’t quite bring myself to play a non-linear game without one. I have an interesting combination of lack of sense of direction with a quite good ability to read maps, which means without a map I will get so hopelessly lost I won’t be able to enjoy the game, while with a good map I’ll never get lost.

Of those kinds of map, I prefer a non-rotating minimap (a rotating one gives me headaches and makes me feel lost), preferably together with a fog-of-war enabled larger map. The combination not just prevents me from ever getting lost, but also allows me to easily plan routes and stay on them, and tells me at a glance where I haven’t yet been. Which means I don’t have to waste time mapping the game world and memorizing routes, and can instead dedicate myself to doing whatever I find enjoyable in the game.

I can work with static external maps, which is what I did with Dark Souls, for example. It just means some extra effort of the not-fun kind, which in turn means that the game has to be good enough to compensate for that irritating design choice in order for me to be able to enjoy it.

Of note, I’m the same in the real world; the first thing I do whenever I go to a new place is to get a reliable map. I have paper maps covering all major roads in the country I live, all minor roads in the state, and detailed maps of all cities I’ve ever been to, inside my car’s glove compartment. I don’t go anywhere without a map, unless I’m so used to the place I know by heart where everything is.

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nomadmorlock9

I can’t deny the convenience of mini maps. I do think they damage immersion.

I prefer ESO’s compass personally. It keeps you more immersed in the world itself. I would prefer a less detailed world map as well. For those who cannot seem to get accustomed to the compass, they tend to try to use the zone map as a mini map. This means they spend a lot more time looking at a 2D version of the world than walking through it as a 3D world.

I do think better compass marketing for all group members is needed, maybe even small arrows and the very edge of your screen view pointing towards group members would help this.

I can also see where cartography in MMOs could be so much more.