Gaming Cartography?

Matt Barton's picture

I've often been struck at how central maps are to gaming. I say "gaming" there instead of "videogames," because we all know that maps are also critical in tabletop games such as wargames, role-playing, and of course boardgames like Risk. I also noted that the first-ever commercially sold jigsaw puzzle was a map. It seems that games and maps go way back:

It is generally agreed that the first jigsaw puzzle was produced around 1760 by John Spilsbury, a London engraver and mapmaker. Spilsbury mounted one of his maps on a sheet of hardwood and cut around the borders of the countries using a fine-bladed marquetry saw. The end product was an educational pastime, designed as an aid in teaching British children their geography. The idea caught on and, until about 1820, jigsaw puzzles remained primarily educational tools.

I tend to play mostly adventure and role-playing videogames, two genres where maps and often map-making play a critical role. I could, for instance, talk about early hits such as Zork and Wizardry, which all but required some graph paper and a box of pencils to complete (or think of Ultima and other games that included lovely cloth or printed maps). Almost anyone who has played these games will tell you about the thrills of exploring and mapping. Later games feature automated maps, which some old school types detest but others adore (at any rate, it became the standard).

Does anyone know the first commercial game to offer an automap? I guess a case could be made for some of the PLATO games I covered earlier, though it's a bit questionable since there isn't a separate map and gameplay screen. Of course, you could argue that games like Temple of Apshai and Rogue are interactive maps, where the map-making or cartography bits are actually part of the game (map-making becomes part of the gameplay). First-person shooters (including Doom, of course) also offer map screens, but I hope it's obvious that maps are common in 2-dimensional games as well, such as the famous maps of Mario and Zelda published in Nintendo Power and other magazines of the era.

I also find it interesting that Colossal Cave was authored by a caver; a hobby that requires exceptional navigational skills (and plenty of maps, I'm sure). Let us also consider the centrality of maps and fictional geographies in fantasy works such as Tolkien's; clearly there is some link between gaming, fantasy, and detailed fictional environments.

I suppose an old-fashioned literary critic might talk about "mimesis" and the natural pleasure we receive when a work of art closely mirrors nature, but perhaps there's something deeper there--the idea of exploring inaccessible, otherworldly like places--I think of Aristotle's insistence that we are fascinated by what is foreign and marvelous. Yet, it's not enough just to have a richly detailed fantasy world; you also need a way to navigate within it; seems like this is why so few of us like the long, difficult mazes in many adventure games (disorientation is seldom pleasant). Maybe it all boils down to pattern recognition--venturing off into a seemingly chaotic place and making sense of everything in the form of a map.

On the one hand, exploration is only fun if we don't know exactly what to expect (though perhaps not if we truly have *no* idea). A map gives us some idea without revealing the smaller details (what has forests but no trees; an old riddle that again brings us back to maps!). A map is also power; consider its importance in helping Europe to colonize the "New World," or much money has been piled into space programs to "map" the universe. Let us also consider GPS systems and the little games people have cooked up around that; "geocaching" and the like, or "urban exploration," a related hobby. So, the map is our "interface" to the zone, and I wonder if the pleasure of "filling in" a map is secondary or primary to our enjoyment of exploring a space. One final piece of the puzzle is the memory palace, or the mnemonic device that helps one remember things by associating them mentally with a space. Thus there seems to be a tight connection here between memory, space, and pleasure. I'm also reminded of Lynch's Image of the City. Lynch talks there about how cities are more pleasurable when you can use highly visible landmarks (such as a big tower or such) to keep yourself oriented no matter what part of the city you're in. Bad cities offer no such landmarks and are very difficult to learn to navigate, especially if you're limited purely to the names of streets or lanes.

I suppose we could get developmental here, talking about the cognitive development of small children and how they eventually distinguish themselves from the world and so on and so forth (and isn't there something instinctual about a child's desire to explore, particularly forbidden areas?) There are also plenty of myths involving mazes and maps; of course there's Theseus and the minotaur (and the string he uses to find his way; thanks, Ariadne!). While it's a bit of a stretch, I think we could also link "prophecy" in general to this concept; they "map" out the greatest unknown of all, the future, and is very pleasurable for some people to feel they have at least some vague notion of what lies ahead. I don't want to get temporal confused with spatial (or do I??), but isn't a calendar, planner, and that sort of thing just another map?

I seem to know people who dislike exploration and who prefer the familiar to the foreign. This type also seems to prefer games that don't involve exploration or maps, such as Solitaire, Tetris, and the like; in short games that don't have a "game world" but rather just a gameplaying "surface," if that makes any sense. I also wonder if it's connected to people who dislike immersing themselves in a good novel or game world. Finally, I wonder if there's something here similar to the belief that some people appreciate only surfaces (say, a pretty face or body) and are unable to appreciate the depth of person's character or the "spiritual depth" of a certain concerto or whatever. I guess I can't help but sound arrogant and self-praising here, but is it such that a gamer who can *only* enjoy "surface" games also "shallow" in other regards, or is this just purely coincidental? Also; it is enough just to see and move about in a virtual world, or do you need imagination (or perhaps text or background story; that kind of thing) to appreciate it? I'm thinking here of people who play games without hardly paying attention to the gameworld at all; all they care about is getting a score or seeing the world purely in terms of obstacle and vantage point rather than something with a history and significance of its own. I'm sure some people (me included) make up their own little stories and mental maps as they go along; "Ah, there's that place where I reached level 70" and so on.

Any thoughts on space, time, memory, and pleasure?

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Bill Loguidice
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Surely it was earlier than

Surely it was earlier than 1988: http://www.mobygames.com/forums/dga,2/dgb,5/dgm,79166/

I tend to agree that at minimum, Rogue was first, and perhaps something on PLATO.

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Matt Barton
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I remember when I was

I remember when I was reading all those magazine reviews for D&D I came across a lot of criticism of the automappers as they were becoming more common. Some people felt they were "cheating" or that they made the games too easy; others felt that making their own maps was a creative and enjoyable process, whereas others found it tedious and wasteful of their time. It's funny, though, that the automaps became so common precisely when graphics technology was allowing for more diverse tile sets (and graphics in general) that allowed people to better distinguish their environment, thus obviating the need for so much mapping. I'd argue that it's much harder to navigate Wizardry because all the walls and such look the same, whereas later games have unique graphics for each area.

Then again, I find myself constantly having to look at the map in Far Cry 2 because even with all that detail, it's easy to get lost and disoriented. I guess that's the point, but it would be nice to have at least some areas that were easy to navigate without constant reference to a map.

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Bill Loguidice
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I remember in Phantasie

I remember in Phantasie making full color maps for all three games (I should scan them just for fun). However, the Phantasie games had a fog of war type of map system where as you entered a tile, it stayed revealed. You really only needed a map for the overworld, and only then to help you remember where certain towns, dungeons and other artifacts were, but it certainly wasn't essential. In the dungeons themselves, the dungeon slowly revealed itself as you moved from square to square, and each dungeon was only the size of a single screen, so eventually you would reveal the whole map. So, really, it all depends on the definition of "auto-map".

You mention Wizardry. That's a definite graph paper map game, just like paper D&D. The Dark Spire, the Nintendo DS homage (modern day clone, really), has an auto-map, with the caveat that it doesn't show your location on the map. You need to cast a spell to see where you are on the map. That's a decent compromise, I suppose.

In my opinion, like going to the bathroom, it's only logical that your characters should be aware of and/or be automatically mapping their surroundings. Now, what would be interesting would be to occasionally get disoriented and have to find your place on the map through some gameplay element. That would rebalance things between no map and a full auto-map. Heck, some games even go so far as to automatically journal. How far is too far? I guess it all depends on the design.

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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
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Chris Kennedy
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The best map is no map

Hey Matt -

I have a slightly different angle on this. It involves Metroid.

I've given you my thoughts on Metroid once before via Matt Chat. I am probably one of the few that actually prefers the original Metroid over Super Metroid. I will sometimes reluctantly say that perhaps it is simply a nostalgia I have for the game, but let's assume that is not the case and let me give my true feelings - the lack of map making made Metroid.

I have played games with auto-mapping. I have played games where I have had to make a map with pencil and paper. Each scenario has its own fun factor, but I say the best game is a game that you can explore without having to map it - be that automatically or manually. Why?

Atmosphere. Much like a good book, you want to get sucked into a good game. This includes getting sucked into the game's world. When I played Metroid, I didn't make a map. I obviously didn't have an auto-mapping ability in game. I basically learned my away around by background colors and landmarks. In retrospect, this demanded quite a bit considering a lot of empty area for graphics in Metroid (the background was black).

I think the enjoyment of a game's art and atmosphere is diminished by the distraction of having to manually make a map on pen and paper and navigate your world via your auto-map/manual map. If you eyes are constantly checking your status bar, status screen (which involves pausing the game), or the paper in front of you, it distracts you from the artwork.

I would perhaps say that using a cloth map or some sort of authentic-looking map that came with the game or was purchased separately would add to the experience of a game's atmosphere, but the exploration and adventure aspect would still be lost.

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Matt Barton
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Bill and Chris Response

Great responses, guys. I think we must have quite similar views on the topic.

Chris Kennedy wrote:

I think the enjoyment of a game's art and atmosphere is diminished by the distraction of having to manually make a map on pen and paper and navigate your world via your auto-map/manual map. If you eyes are constantly checking your status bar, status screen (which involves pausing the game), or the paper in front of you, it distracts you from the artwork.

I would perhaps say that using a cloth map or some sort of authentic-looking map that came with the game or was purchased separately would add to the experience of a game's atmosphere, but the exploration and adventure aspect would still be lost.

I agree. Indeed, perhaps automapping and autojournaling are both signs of the same problem--meaningless content. I'm probably off here, but let's go with this a minute. So, if the game world, story, quests, and so on were really well designed, we wouldn't need to automate any part of them because they would make enough impact that we would simply remember them. That makes a certain sense to me.

On the other hand, I can see another argument that the automation reveals how little such things really matter to a game. Again, I come back to Rogue. Perhaps people don't really "need" the story/quest structure and vivid gameworlds of games such as World of Warcraft as much as they think they do. If you're heavily relying on the game to track your quests (via the journal) and locations (via the maps), it probably means you're paying very little attention to the story and world. That is definitely true in my case. I don't like "at" so much as look "through," to use a bit of Richard Lanham's discussion of writing style. Perhaps omitting maps and journaling would *force* us to look AT rather than THROUGH, at least until we had memorized enough of what was going on. This would require very careful design so that we don't get lost or lose track of our objectives (or perhaps even re-thinking what it means to game in the first place.)

Hm. Lots to think about here.

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Calibrator
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Maps and Musings

Disclaimer: The games mentioned here aren't necessarily pioneers of a feature but meant to illustrate it's function.

Before all of the answers only revolve around automapping one should consider the original reason Matt made his post: The importance of maps for games.
I thought about this extensively before (not necessarily thinking I'm right about it ;-) and I assume that Matt mostly meant that maps are inherent in the design of many games - and especially: Game genres.
The player moving on a map - whether 2D (Ultima), pseudo-3D (Dungeon Master, Ultima Underworld) or fully 3D (recent RPGs) - and how this map (= his world) is structured is a more important aspect than the kind of mapping the game supplies the player with (automap, fixed picture or nothing at all).

I don't say that automaps are unimportant but for a designer/programmer they are mostly a matter of resources (at least before PCs became common) like Matt already pointed out and are often only an interpretation of the game's data structures.

Personally, I thought that the commercial death of the text adventure (because of 2D graphics) was equally logical like the growing success of automaps. Not only because players are getting lazier (automaps *are* comfy) but because a very large 2D-world needs some kind of simplification and a fully 3D-one needs abstraction.
One could even say that the ship radar in the game Elite (or Star Raiders!) is some kind of automap: It shows the player the next target to battle in the form of a blip. This is pretty much exactly what you use an automap in an RPG for - except that the goal is different: You either have or want to explore everything or find specific locations - and an automap helps you do it.

With this we are back at the game map itself:

Removing the "fog of war" (Sword of Fargoal) or "filling" the map (Temple of Apshai, Phantasie) is one of the reasons such games are liked by a lot of players. This activity gives the player the joy of accomplishment! Remember the game Q*Bert? What glorious feeling when all tiles where the same new color!
An inversion can be found in the countless Pac-Man variants: To remove everything, to "clean" a map. Pac-Man clones sometimes even come in pseudo-3D clothes: Crystal Castles for example.

Of course you don't need an automap if the whole map is on-screen at once, like Bill pointed out, giving the Phantasie series as an example.

But what if the game map is much larger than the screen?

A game world can consist of a single screen. But a game world seems to be infinitely larger if it consists of several screens - either by flipping between them or by scrolling under the player.
We can argue for hours what defines a (game) world but we'll surely agree that most (game) worlds are larger than what the subject (the player) can absorb at once.
It doesn't stop here: A world is only a part of what's called a "universe" - and we stay true to the literal sense: A universe includes everything. All worlds, all subjects, all information.
Games often use the term "universe" to suggest a scale of grandeur to the player - there have even been games on tiny 8-bit platforms trying to suggest it right with the title, like "Omnitrend's Universe" which I'm sure most readers here are aware of.
But what does a world or universe imply? The complete immersion of the player into a separate habitat where the rules and laws may be different to ones in the world he physically knows.

What are maps in such a context?

They are simply the foundation for both the designer and the player! The designer who wants to build a world needs to define a data structure that could be very simple (xy-matrix) or very complicated (linked list of fields) but which must be shown in a way that the player can understand where he is, what he sees and how he may travel or otherwise manipulate himself or objects on the map.

Of course there's practically no limit of how a world is built - except for the resources the target platform. Therefore we have another problem: What should be included into the game world (map)? Logically, we need a set of design goals.

Some of these goals have already been mentioned in Matt's post and the following ones above this one: "making sense" (exploring, understanding, filling a map) or atmosphere (showing stuff not necessarily needed to be manipulated).
I disagree with Chris regarding automaps as I see much value in them but he has a point about two things: The player doesn't necessarily need one (comfy feature...) and it may distract someone - like reading movie subtitles instead of trying to understand the actors.
I believe Ultima 3 was the first game in the series that offered a limited automap by letting the player "peer a gem" which showed a rough, but complete map of his surroundings. This consumed a map gem every time the player used it so it also had an economic spin - a good compromise? Try that today and the games magazines will punish you for it!

On the other hand we could examine a game like Ultima Underworld: It's automap was considered groundbreaking at the time as it not only looked good, fit the world (by using a pergament-like surface and appropriate drawings) but it also let players make annotations. It showed the outlined of landmarks but not the names of them.
I don't think many players thought that this automap was detracting them from the very engaging 3D world around them but instead helped to navigate it. Automaps became tools in this moment, sometimes indispensable ones.

However, a game like Ultima Underworld is limited to it's levels and the automap clearly showed the limits of the levels. This confined the player not only virtually but also mentally and while this fits the subterranean world (-> Ultima "Underworld") it isn't necessarily the best solution for a wider approach like an overworld game.

Consider the epic saga Baldur's Gate.

Starting with the very first entry these games used an interesting approach:
- The player (party) moves on a pre-rendered, detailed map that used fog of war to hide enemies and give the player a reason to explore it (as an aside: This kind of fog of war was the only kind being technically possible on a pre-rendered map).
These detailed maps had fixed dimensions, fit a specific part of the game world (a building, a town, part of a forest) and practically showed everything when uncovered. They were atmospheric but they were limited by scale and they were fixed: A chest could only be opened but not removed, for example.
- As the BG saga is pretty epic Bioware also included a map with a larger scale: The World Map. This map links to the (overworld) area maps but travel between them is independent and interruptible (by travel encounters like enemy ambushes).
This kind of map not only amplifies the feeling of epic proportions but also suggests to the player that there may be something "between" the area maps. Something that exists and may not be crucial in this game but perhaps in a later one in the same game universe, as Baldur's Gate of course used the Forgotten Realms scenario.
This is also an incredibly simple (and clever!) way to integrate map expansions - which is exactly what Bioware did with the "Tales of the Sword Coast" scenario.

Older games like the Ultima series featured the game world as a whole continent (complete with smaller islands) and each new Ultima had to reinvent the whole continent, getting more detailed and more complicated with each iteration.
While this resulted in more fun for the hardcore fans it also made the games increasingly inaccessible for more casual gamers that couldn't or didn't want to delve too deeply into these worlds.
While I personally still think that Ultima 7 is one of the best CRPGs of all time and will remain it for several reasons it is clear that it was way too detailed for the majority of gamers. Providing too much detail can result in questions like "What do I have to do with XYZ?" - something an experienced gamer will seldomly ask.
While crossing the fine line between RPG and simulation if often fell on the latter side - something that may result in work (in a simulation laws have to be accepted and obeyed by the player) instead of fun.
Richard Garriott, realizing this, limited the scope of the next Ultima in the series, "Ultima 8: Pagan", drastically, as most people here know. He also tried to make the game more accessible by catering to the video game crowd that translated fun with the correct timing of jumps.
Alas, the plan backfired as the traditional Ultima games had developed a specific kind of fans that were grounded in moving on maps at their own leisure and new gamers couldn't be won because the game was still too much of an RPG. A big patch was released later but it was too late: The game failed in both markets.

I think that Baldur's Gate was the necessary evolution of the Ultima principle which was overdoing the construction of the game world by tiles. BG used separate areas, manageable by the player and linked them via an easily accessible overworld map. While the game is still as epic as the common Ultima it is broken up in comprehensible chunks, with not too much detail. On the other hand it still leaves enough room for the player to conceive it's game world as being unrestrained. Baldur's Gate became an enormous success and helped revitalize the RPG-genre.

The next evolutionary step came in the guise of the game Morrowind which itself was a descendant of two earlier games by the same publisher.
Morrowind, an action-oriented RPG, used the first person perspective and simulated a full 3D world - complete with much unnessary, but atmospheric fluff like spoons, fruits and commodities.
While practically anything can be manipulated - like in the real world - the player didn't feel much need to collect stuff like kitchen equipment as it had little value.
More interesting was the way the designers integrated the map and the map travelling:
- The player could literally roam the entire island (as large as a small continent) by foot
- or he could use so-called land striders to travel between fixed outposts instantly (only increasing game time)

While this wasn't exactly an innovation it paved the way for the next title in the series: Oblivion, which made travelling even more comfortable. The game provided the player with a complete map of the island that gradually exposed landmarks like caves, cottages etc. and each landmark could be comfortably travelled to, without any risk.
This proved too comfy for some players who started to play the game without this easy-travel feature - as it occured to them that this wasn't realistic enough. It was like driving a car by switching on a GPS navigator, choosing the destination and -presto!- you arrive without even kicking the gas pedal.
This mechanism surely made following the main plot line very easy if a player already visited the area before: He could literally click himself from scene to scene, from climax to climax. I, for example, finished the main plot within two hours after exploring nearly the whole rest of the game and gaining a high enough level first.

It will be seen how comfy map travel will get in the future but I'm certain that Oblivion wasn't the last statement.

take care,
Calibrator

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Matt Barton
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Response to Calibrator

Whoa! Calibrator, you are obviously a person of great profundity. Short on time this morning, but I'll try to make a quick response to the first part.

Calibrator wrote:

Before all of the answers only revolve around automapping one should consider the original reason Matt made his post: The importance of maps for games.
I thought about this extensively before (not necessarily thinking I'm right about it ;-) and I assume that Matt mostly meant that maps are inherent in the design of many games - and especially: Game genres.
The player moving on a map - whether 2D (Ultima), pseudo-3D (Dungeon Master, Ultima Underworld) or fully 3D (recent RPGs) - and how this map (= this world) is structured is a more important aspect than the kind of mapping the game supplies the player with (automap, fixed picture or nothing at all).

Agreed. I grabbed a definition of "map" from Merriam-Webster and came up with this: "a representation usually on a flat surface of the whole or a part of an area." *Very* intriguing, if you think about it--so, since all games are on a flat surface and show a whole or part of an area, does it follow that all game worlds are maps? Or is the "map" simply what you see on the screen at any given point in the game? So what does that make a map screen? Perhaps something similar to the legend, key, or scale on a conventional map?

Also, according to the same dictionary, the etymology goes back to "napkin" or "towel." Doug Adams' "Remember where your towel is" has a new meaning now!

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Bill Loguidice
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To me, a map would have to

To me, a map would have to qualify as a map in a game if it shows the majority of the game world. Though this is a simplification, going by that, you could argue that since Pac-Man takes place on a single screen, that single screen is a map, while Defender, which takes place on multiple screens is not a map. Of course Defender's radar IS a map, since it represents and displays the entire game world.

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Matt Barton
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You bring up Pac-Man, which

You bring up Pac-Man, which I think most people would call a "maze" rather than a "map." I just found an essay over at Rampant Coyote on the topic of mazes; Game Design: Seven Ways to Make Mazes Suck Less. Some good thoughts there about why people dislike mazes.

Mazes are certainly relevant to this discussion, and they also have the 2D/3D aspect that is similar (mazes on paper vs. hedge mazes and the like). You might argue that a 2D maze is simply a map intended to disorient rather than orient; or that a maze is simply a space that is difficult to map. It seems to me that there's not a fundamental difference between designing something like a hedgemaze and a maze in a first person 3D game. Indeed, I wouldn't be surprised if someone had already made a FPS-style adaptation of an existing hedge maze.

I can't remember the game (thinking it was Riddle of the Sphinx II or some such), but it had you find your way through a difficult hedge maze, but there was also a map on a painting somewhere (can't remember if you found this before or after the maze) to help you. Seems like there was also an example of this in the Frankenstein game featuring Tim Curry (I could be "mis-remembering," of course). Anyway, the idea is that you have both a 3D, first-person maze, and a 2D map somewhere that gives you an overhead view. Then there are games such as Hillsfar that offer both--a 3D first-person view AND an overhead 2D-view with directional arrow showing which way you're facing. Of course, many modern games have that; WoW, for instance, has a small overhead map in the corner as well as a special map screen you can bring up. There is still a problem with things that are above or beneath you, though--I've yet to see something as elegant as Elite's radar screen for showing you visually where something is regards to above or beneath).

There is also the classic problem of making maps: if it's 1 to 1, the map is not a map but the actual thing. The question seems to be what level of abstraction is optimal for a map of a virtual world, since ostensibly a 1 to 1 map is no problem at all (totally unlike a real map!!). Perhaps the "map" could just be the ability to zoom way out or send a "camera" about the area. I've already noticed some games (Everquest did this) that borrowed the concept of Theseus' string in the maze; you'd select a waypoint and a shimmering ribbon like thing would connect you to it; then it was simply a matter of following the string to the goal. Other games use a less direct way point system, only giving you the distance and direction (this setup fails again though in terms of up and down movement). The Metroid games on the Wii have a very sophisticated map that is 3D and can be rotated, zoomed, moved about; whatever you want. It's nice but perhaps a bit too complex; I still have a hard time navigating from point A to point B even with such as a sophisticated system. Be nice if I could just set waypoints.

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Calibrator
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Abstraction or Depiction?

Maps walk a fine line sometimes: The line between depiction and abstraction.

In the real world a map is always an abstraction - either of a real thing or of an imagined world (like the Tolkien maps of Middleearth). It can also be a depiction at the same time.
In games there exist several types of maps as we already pointed out and they also can look quiet different. The radar map in Defender is a good example as it shows you the abstraction directly above the game world.

As for Pac-Man:
A maze can of course be a map - and there are certainly maps of mazes...

Another perspective is the technical side I tried to mention in my lengthy post above: For a programmer maps begin with the computer platform itself: There are memory maps and register maps that "cartograph" the hardware world he has to work with. These maps should be so detailed and error-free that we can call them a depiction - an abstraction is usually not good enough.

If the programmer creates a game he is probably thinking about creating data structures to build his game world. Most modern 3D games use list-like structures while older 2D games almost always use maps in the form of x/y-arrays.
As 2D games usually work with a memory mapped screen (using tiles for the fields/cells) a translation of the array to the screen can range from utterly primitive to sophisticated.
In modern 3D games it's usually much harder to create a 2D representation from the list data in memory - sometimes the map is simply just another rendering with the camera pointing downwards (Duke Nukem 3D).
When 3D maps get more depictive we talk about full 3D automaps, that can be rotated and magnified. These aren't exactly new either: The Descent series offered very nice ones many years ago and several other games come to mind, starting roughly in the 68k-era (Atari ST, Amiga).

Maybe one should examine the map in question to consider it's kind - by analyzing it's goals.
Does it contain practically everything (depiction) or are only certain landmarks drawn into it (abstraction)?
Is this selection random or willfull (more likely, isn't it?) and what does this tell the player?
Is the main purpose to show the player his location or are there elements that show him his "work" (enemies, waypoints, secrets, treasures...)?
If the map is depicting everything the player has to decide what he has to do - but a more abstract map is already showing the direction: To the next goal. Here the programmer has already decided about the level of abstraction (to make playing the game easier, perhaps).

There are games where the player moves his (party) icon on something that even looks exactly like a map (King's Bounty series) or a board game like surface (Archon) - when the player enters combat he is shown in a playfield arena that suddenly looks a bit more realistic.
What's the game world now? The board game like map or the combat arena?

Many shades of gray here it seems...

take care,
Calibrator

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