Monday, January 23, 2012

Last month I described the reasons I don’t like the maps in Skyrim. Below are some maps from Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, a game that’s been compared to Skyrim.

Here’s the world map in the game:

It shows where I am, the areas I’ve discovered so far, my current destination, areas of the world along with their names, and ways to travel between areas/zones. The map uses light shading and subtle texturing to keep the main areas clear and readable. Non-walkable areas are darker and strongly shaded to distinguish them from the main areas.

Here’s a local area map in the game:

It shows where I am, portals, merchants, healers, NPCs (white circles), dungeons, roads (main and side), shrines (green circles), and things I’ve spotted but not investigated yet (brown boxes). The investigation spots only show up if I’ve leveled up an exploration skill. In the northwest an area is dark because I haven’t explored it yet. Walkable areas are tan or gray, with subtle texturing. Non-walkable areas and unexplored areas are dark.

Here’s another area:

It shows larger and smaller roads, two bridges, a river, and monsters I’ve spotted. The monsters only get placed on my map if I have leveled up an exploration skill. Several areas fade to black because I haven’t explored them yet.

I love these maps! They are clean and easy to read. They show what’s important. They omit irelevant details (clouds, rocks, trees, plants). They’re updated as I explore and discover new things. They help me figure out where to go and how to get there.

How well do these maps answer the questions from my post about Skyrim’s maps?

Player questionAmalurSkyrim
Where have I been?places, zones, roadsplaces only
What areas have I missed?area map onlyarea map only
What have I done?nono
Where can I find resources?some *no
Where can I get some product/service?yesno
What do I want to return to?nono
Where have I been told to go?one questall quests
What are the main areas?zones onlyzones, lakes, rivers, towns
What locations have I been told about?(don’t know)places only
How do I get to a specific place?yesno
How long would it take me to get somewherenono
What dangers are along various paths?in area map only *no
Where are events occurring?N/AN/A
What has changed?nono
What did I miss?N/AN/A
* requires leveling up an exploration skill

I only played the demo for a short time, so it’s possible I’ve missed some aspects of the maps in Kingdoms of Amalur. I’m finding the maps to be much more useful than the ones in Skyrim.

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Anonymous wrote at May 02, 2012 5:00 PM

This is a valid observation, and the maps look great, but part of Skyrim's philosophy is to be immersed in an open world. And sometimes you don't know where you are, but that adds to the mystery and excitement of the game. If the map showed you the route to get everything anywhere you wanted, then you would lose the thrill of exploration.

Though I do agree that Skyrim's Map UI was pretty useless, there is also the opposite danger of removing all the mystery from the game's setting.

Amit wrote at May 02, 2012 9:25 PM

Anonymous — I completely agree. What I want is for the map to show me things I've discovered in the world. I don't want it to show me things I haven't found yet. This would match what I would do as a human exploring a new place. I'd mark on the map after I found something. My complaint is that Skyrim's maps don't put things on the map even after I find them. :(