Get Rid of the Dang Arrows

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Get Rid of the Dang Arrows

Game developers are a bit too eager to load up a game's HUD with info.

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Eh, I actually rather like the markers. They let me know where to go last after I've explored everywhere else. Few things irritate me like accidentally stumbling into the next level/area/cutscene before I've explored to my heart's content.

I do find their presence in linear games a bit puzzling though. I'd prefer that they simply make the path clear through the level layout, Valve-style. Then again, that's much easier said than done.

And yet, my biggest criticism of Halo 4 is the lack of a compass in multiplayer. I mean, come on! I get that it's not an adventure game, but do you have any idea how easy it is to get disoriented during a firefight? Trying to co-ordinate with a team on Solace was a nightmare. THEY'RE BY THE DIRTY BASE!

WHICH WAY IS THAT?!

Warfighter is clearly an example of too much handholding - especially since the presence of a GUI in a 'realistic' shooter is just plain meta-gaming, whereas Halo 4 has a perfectly canon reason to have compasses in multiplayer and just plain doesn't.

Zhukov:
Eh, I actually rather like the markers. They let me know where to go last after I've explored everywhere else. Few things irritate me like accidentally stumbling into the next level/area/cutscene before I've explored to my heart's content.

I do find their presence in linear games a bit puzzling though. I'd prefer that they simply make the path clear through the level layout, Valve-style. Then again, that's much easier said than done.

Yeah, I dont have problem with quest markers like that in open games. God knows, im one of those poor bastards that sometimes needs to be lead by the nose as I couldnt find it on my own sometimes.

But in linear games, they do seem odd.

But Yahtzee, every game has to have them, because previous games that have done well had them!! How can we ever make progress as people if we dont carry over every popular feature whether or not its necessary or appropriate?

Seriously though, I think, as with basically all elements of a HUD, it should be a toggle option in the menu. Those that want to explore the environment to find out where to go can do so unmolested, and those that arent able to think for themselves can be led by the nose by a flashing arrow.

This discussion of exploration reminds me of the original Legend of Zelda. You aren't really given a direction as to where to start and you're just left to explore the world and find the dungeons that are stepping stones to saving Hyrule. I remember getting lost there, but it was fun because it seemed like a new experience every time I started it up and found a whole new area to die in. Wish more games let you figure stuff out like that, but perhaps not to the same ridiculous degree.

Maybe a game where you start off with a blank map, and as you explore, the map becomes visible and as you interact with world objects, it would get marked up to indicate things you explored, things you changed, things you (the player) marked for some significance, etc. It essentially takes the map ideas of Minecraft and Silent Hill and combines them into something that encourages exploration while helping you keep track of where you've been. And probably make it a non-mini-map thing. If you want to know where you're going, open the map up and actually look at it rather than taking your eyes away from the environment to focus on the mini-map.

I have to say, markers telling me what I had to blow up in Halo 4 didn't really decrease my enjoyment of the game.

I'm all for it, if environments are sufficiently varied enough with distinct landmarks for navigation, and I can still read a journal entry telling me to turn north at the big tree or whatever. I do not relish a return to mapping identical dungeon corridors by hand like we had to in the 8-bit/16-bit RPG days. That means no samey-brown sand/rock corridors or samey-grey metal corridors.

I agree about the map in AC3. Hunting down all 100 feathers in AC2 was sometimes torturous experience, and sometimes I wonder to this day why I bothered, but I stuck at it, and it felt incredibly satisfying to have my hard work rewarded. Since then however, you can buy maps that give you the locations of all the feathers, as well as other collectibles, and to be honest it kind of defeats the point of having them in the first place. It stops being a scavenger hunt, where the player is rewarded for their keen senses and problem solving skills, and while at times frustrating is always compelling due to the nature of man wanting to solve problems. Instead, it just becoms another instruction "There. There's a thing Player. Go on. Fetch."

I played Dishonoured without objective markers and enjoyed it a lot more for being able to turn them off, while i'm sure many people found them nessecary. As long as features like this are optional i have no problem at all with them

Good read! Big, flashing arrows really should be a last resort, instead of the main means of orientation. Perhaps someone could start a kickstarter project, patent them and blackmail all developers to only use them responsibly?

Now, old ArmA II did have some pointy arrows showing the general area you where supposed to reach here and there, but thankfully, there weren't too many of them to spoil the open world concept. Usually, it went like "Boris Genocidevitj is probably hiding in a rebel camp somewhere inside this huge forest, about half an hour's drive from here. Ask the locals for directions, if you're lucky, they might know something specific", and then you'd drive your little crew around the countryside looking for clues or completing sidequests. I feel that's the way to do it, there's no use having an open world if you're not going to let things get a bit organic.

Not to say more linear games have any excuse, there's even less of a reason to point everything out with flashing arrows when you're indoors. A special door is a possibility to let the player feel smart and happy to progress, not just something you park an arrow over and call it a day.

Although a pointy arrow could be useful as a last resort mechanic in a more difficult puzzle game. Something akin to Amnesia, perhaps. If you really can't for the life of you find the solution to a puzzle after half an hour and about twenty canteens of oil, then maybe you could opt to sacrifice a bit of your health for a hint-arrow. Of course, it's all hinging on it being costly enough to use to discourage people from abusing it, but it could be a neat last way out.

This article has inspired me to play Skyrim with the quest markers turned off and no fast travelling. Lets see how long this lasts once I actually start playing.

"there's not a single slightly significant thing in that game that doesn't sport a massive indicator on the minimap"
Wow, I actually had to read that like 5 times and simplify it down to understand it.

Also, while a lot of people like to say "well turn them off and enjoy the game properly" I'm one of those gamers that almost instinctively tries to utilize everything for efficiency's sake. So even if I try to immerse myself by turning everything off, there's always a nagging feeling in the back of my head to turn it all back on.

Storm Dragon:
This article has inspired me to play Skyrim with the quest markers turned off and no fast travelling. Lets see how long this lasts once I actually start playing.

I've actually heard some complaints that the quests don't give you enough information to do them without the markers or at least you'll be severely hindered.

I found I enjoyed Dishonored far more once I turned the quest markers off.

In a game that has environments that stunning its a travesty that they put a big white marker on the screen at all times shouting "Your target is here numbnuts!"

Having to scout out areas finding clues of where your target might be was far more rewarding.

I don't know, I kind of appreciate having objective markers in open world games like Skyrim or Just Cause 2 which I've recently started playing. If I want to explore, I'll explore, but when I want to get my current quest/mission done I want to know where to go right away and not have to bother trying to figure out where I have to go and how to get there. In other words, I want to cut right to the juicy bits.

I'm fine either way so long as there are sufficient clues in the quest to tell you where to go. "Kill 10 Rabid Pheasants" isn't really going to work without a quest marker. "Kill 10 Rabid Pheasants located to the north of town", however, would work.

rollerfox88:
But Yahtzee, every game has to have them, because previous games that have done well had them!! How can we ever make progress as people if we dont carry over every popular feature whether or not its necessary or appropriate?

Seriously though, I think, as with basically all elements of a HUD, it should be a toggle option in the menu. Those that want to explore the environment to find out where to go can do so unmolested, and those that arent able to think for themselves can be led by the nose by a flashing arrow.

The toggle is a good idea. Or even just have a "hint" button so to speak.

Well in linear games sure.

Get rid of them. They don't make sense.

But I'd really like to have some form of waypoint in large open world games (at minimum just a map with marked names and then a compass).

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Just a thought, but surely putting a big arrow over something to make sure the player looks at it should be saved for the last resort, after you've done everything else you can to make it noticeable with a striking appearance or contrasting colors or laying out the surroundings appropriately. I think of Team Fortress 2. There needed to be a way for teammates to identify friendly spies disguised as the enemy. At first the developers tried sticking big floaty indicators over their heads, but it didn't naturally convey the intended meaning. So instead, to their own team, spies appear to be wearing incredibly obvious cardboard masks, which is both more indicative and funnier. The elegant approach is infinitely superior.

And on the flip side of things, Team Fortress 2 again. The developers got tired of designing the payload maps with intuitive, linear routes and just tossed Left 4 Dead's magic highlighting thingamabob onto the cart so players could see where it is through the walls. Other than the HUD itself, it's the only element of the game that doesn't pretend to be a real part of the world, and it takes players out of the game. Then they added it to the intel briefcase because apparently a prominent arrow pointing in its general direction wasn't good enough. And now Portal 2 does the same thing with portals, which I'm sure comes in handy in co-op but why did we have to suffer through it in single-player?

I'm guessing Yahtzee is not a fan of that trend either.

Yahtzee:
There are far too many games - seems to happen a lot in sandbox driving games, on reflection - where I spend far too much of the experience with my eyes glued to the minimap.

When I read this, the first thing I thought was "but, those city maps in Saints Row 2 - or whereever - are confusing when you first start playing. It can be hard to figure out which streets get you where you're going! Just like in a real city -"

At which point my brain said "well, how do you get around in a real city with no objective marker?"

And my brain then responded "with GPS, which tells me when to turn"

....

So yeah, there's my idea about how to replace mini maps and objective markers in sandbox Crime games. Have an option for an actual in-game GPS to tell you when and where to turn, but without showing you. All audio, or maybe a little HUDs left, right, straight light at the bottom of the screen that doesn't use a map.

And give players who like objective markers the option to use them anyway. But that way those that want a more organic experience can have one.

While I mostly agree with the underlying philosophy he's presenting (open, organic player discovery is superior to being led by the nose) I do part ways on the details.

I think that, as long as the marker isn't intrusive (see: Call of Duty) a objective marker on a mini-map or compass is helpful. Then again, it's a subjective thing. Yahtzee says that the arrow is prodding and not easily ignored. I found it very easy to set my marker in Skyrim, but then completely ignore it along the way to explore whatever I wanted.

Also, I've found that Assassin's Creed 3 is one of the better modern games when it comes to markers and general HUD. There is less HUD in AC3 than in previous titles, and it does the nice different-colored-circle-on-the-mini-map thing, letting me know, "Hey, I'm not going to tell you EXACTLY where the animals you need to hunt are, but here's a chunk of the map that you should work with, because that's the general area."

It's a balance. Yahtzee talks about the joy of making hand-drawn maps; some gamers yearn for those old days, but I don't. At the same time, I'm not on board with the infamous "Follow" marker that COD has made famous.

I think a game like Uncharted did the balance well. Very little HUD, no objective markers, but if you take a while figuring out where to go next, it offers an optional hint as to the path you're supposed to take: that, to me, combines the best of all approaches.

I kind of agree on the other hand I still have horrible memory's of getting hopelessly lost in morrowind and while only focusing on your minimap or objective marker is bad having to open your quest log to check your walking instructions a lot is even worse.

to make it work you have to create a lot of easily identifiably landmarks and very clear and accurate npc instructions both of which cost a lot more time and money and are a lot harder to do well as opposed to simply giving you a quest marker.

also didn't you complain once that a lot of sidequests were hard to find in your yakuza 4 review.

I Do agree that linear games don't need objective arrows and I also agree that in mission based open world games like thief or dishonored there not needed but In truly open world games like skyrim or assassins creed I like to know where to go on the huge map to complete my quest/task although I do dislike it when there are quest markers in dungeons.

double post sorry

A fair point. However, I've definitely lost enjoyment from games that don't have any kind of objective markers.

Discovery is usually only part of the "cake of fun" I'm trying to eat when playing a video game. Progression/advancement is another. The best games are when those two things go hand in hand. When you get rid of objective markers or maps entirely in an open-world game, you may (in effect) be killing any advancement or forcing players to Google an answer. Nothing breaks immersion more than having to look something up on Google just to continue the game.

Really, it depends on the game and the feel it's going for. I would say I agree with less (in count and obviousness) objective markers. I don't think getting rid of them entirely is the thing to do, though.

Quellist:
I played Dishonoured without objective markers and enjoyed it a lot more for being able to turn them off, while i'm sure many people found them nessecary. As long as features like this are optional i have no problem at all with them

But see, if a game is designed around an objective marker, then the level design or quest info might not be sufficient to let the players find their destination. For reference, Skyrim.

Also, funnily enough, Dishono(u)red has its own stealthy objective marker even if you turn off the quest marker.

Hats off, Arkane. Pretty brilliant.

Zhukov:
Eh, I actually rather like the markers. They let me know where to go last after I've explored everywhere else. Few things irritate me like accidentally stumbling into the next level/area/cutscene before I've explored to my heart's content.

That, on another hand, is a fair point. In quite a lot of RPGs I constantly save so that if I stumble across a critical location I don't want to be in, I can load back to a recent point.

I think now I understand why I like semi-open world adventure games, like BG&E. It's not large enough to get lost into, but holds enough secret in its tight design to wow and test you. Though no objective marker in FO:NV can stop me from stopping and investigating every single interesting landmark.

Open-world games, yes; linear-level games, no. Markers serve a purpose by letting you know where an objective/side-mission starter/collectible is waiting for you so you can keep it waiting while you explore and do something else. Good example is from Batman:Arkham City, where Batman marks main story objectives with something on the HUD, like the radio frequency coming from the Joker's HQ or the temperature gauge to look for Mr. Freeze, so I can explore the city as I like, and answer mr. Zsasz's phone calls, help Political Prisoners being bullied by Inmates, investigate crime scenes for evidence, or solve Riddler challenges.
Still, good article. I liked the bit in the middle where you described the chest of drawers in the middle of the forest.

Wii U's time to shine here! Rather than an on-screen minimap, markers can be placed on a less-distracting map on the controller that doesn't cover up the screen. Here's a few different ideas I had to utilize this:

1. Major quest markers are included, but off by default. They can be toggled on and off with an icon. Minor quest markers, or other locations of note, can be marked by the player (yay touchscreen!) or possibly even by NPCs. They can not be enabled by default.

2. All markers are off by default. There are five slots (or more or less, do some user testing to see what works) available that can each store a marker for one location. Each slot allows for either a searched location from a database or a custom user-defined location. When a new quest objective is received, the option is given to add it (or replace an existing one).

With a touchscreen to more easily add or remove markers, there will be less need to have everything marked by default, and a sense of engagement by letting the player be more involved.

P.S. Thanks

If I had to summarize Yahtzee's complaint, it would be that the markers cause you to watch the GUI at the expense of everything else. My concern is that the presence of such shortcuts leads to unwise design decisions. Let me use an example.

In AC2:B, you have to kill guard captains before you can capture towers which grant you control over an area. While the guard captains dress differently than regular soldiers, your best bet for finding them is the floating indicator over their heads. This is especially helpful, given that some of them will flee the moment you come into conflict with any of their troops, or even set off the alarm by walking into a restricted area.

At one point, there's a tower on a large plateau. There is one path up to the top, and it is guarded. Engaging the guards or moving past them sets off the alarm, at which point the guard captain immediately begins to flee. If he makes it to the tower, he cannot be engaged again until he reappears later. The only real way to defeat this section is to sprint past the guards, ignoring them to the exclusion of the captain, and kill him before he can get away.

None of this is news if you played it, but my point is that this section would have never made it into the game without that marker indicating the guard captain. It would be utterly impossible to understand what was happening in this section without it. Relying on a GUI element to facilitate accomplishment of the game seems to me to be bad design.

Yeah, it seems kind of pointless in a hallway simulator like COD or Medal of Honor, but I appreciate having the option in those big ol games like GTA or Elder Scrolls. Exploring is all well and good, but sometimes I just want to get the fuck on with it.

Morrowind was a game that definitely could have benefited from a compass. Every time I try to play that game, I just wind up getting lost and eaten by the local fauna. I've never gotten more than five hours into that damn game before losing interest. The scenery is pretty but I want to experience the story the internet keeps raving about!

rollerfox88:
But Yahtzee, every game has to have them, because previous games that have done well had them!! How can we ever make progress as people if we dont carry over every popular feature whether or not its necessary or appropriate?

Funny enough, most of the oldest, most successful exploratory games didn't have floating markers (Doom, Zelda, Half Life), and so a way to show the player where to go next was considered an evolution.

Personally, I don't agree with Yatzhee on this one. I think there has to be better ways to do it than a giant yellow arrow; but I don't think exploring for the seventh time the same-looking corridors in search of a door we may have passed, while being attacked by infinite spawning enemies, is a feature we should feel nostalgic about...

Bara_no_Hime:

Yahtzee:
There are far too many games - seems to happen a lot in sandbox driving games, on reflection - where I spend far too much of the experience with my eyes glued to the minimap.

When I read this, the first thing I thought was "but, those city maps in Saints Row 2 - or whereever - are confusing when you first start playing. It can be hard to figure out which streets get you where you're going! Just like in a real city -"

At which point my brain said "well, how do you get around in a real city with no objective marker?"

And my brain then responded "with GPS, which tells me when to turn"

....

So yeah, there's my idea about how to replace mini maps and objective markers in sandbox Crime games. Have an option for an actual in-game GPS to tell you when and where to turn, but without showing you. All audio, or maybe a little HUDs left, right, straight light at the bottom of the screen that doesn't use a map.

And give players who like objective markers the option to use them anyway. But that way those that want a more organic experience can have one.

I don't know if it was added in a post-release patch, but I liked that about Burnout Paradise -- it had the "turn signals" up top showing you the suggested route whenever you approached an intersection. Then you can just watch the road for traffic as you're drifting at 200mph. Because of this, I didn't really have Yahtzee's complaint about needing to open the map every 10 seconds.

I really liked the fact that in Dishonored you could turn off pretty much every U.I. indicator so that you could play the game with out being held by the hand, it really made the game much better since you actually had to search the level carefully if you wanted to find everything.

Zhukov:
I do find their presence in linear games a bit puzzling though. I'd prefer that they simply make the path clear through the level layout, Valve-style. Then again, that's much easier said than done.

and it's much easier (and lazier) to just toss in arrows.

I find them baffling in linear games. But then again, given enough time in an open-world game, I'll stop using the arrows and markers anyway.

I need these markers because I have no sense of direction whatsoever. I can literally get lost in a straight line, I'll end up going backwards what feels like MORE than half the time. Options to turn them off? Sounds good to me.

I need these markers because I have no sense of direction whatsoever. I can literally get lost in a straight line, I'll end up going backwards what feels like MORE than half the time. Options to turn them off? Sounds good to me.

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