Get Rid of the Dang Arrows

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Assassin's Creed had map markers all over the mini-map . . . .and even that requires more thought than having on screen markers. BTW i am SSSSOOOOOO LOOKING FORWARD to Yahtzee's tearing Ass creed 3 apart because even a fan as i am I couldn't have been more disappointed. Yep Skyrim I think does this the best. Skyrim allows you to place exactly however many markers you want catering to everyone in a way. You can turn all the markers of and even with them one you still need to navigate there. . . . Yep Ass Creed 3 sucks ass. . . .please someone agree with me on this cuz I'm tired of hearing how 'amazing' it is. . . .there is no excuse for some of the graphics after doing that successfully for 4 games. . . .

I thought Yahtzee reviewed an Uncharted game at some point in the last couple of years. Uncharted games don't have markers... They do have gentle nudges of where to go if you linger in one place for too long, but no markers.

I guess I just have this mental deficiency where I can completely and utterly ignore these things and go faff about like it's nobody's business. Skyrim was particularly guilty of making me do exactly this. I'd see a nice little glade in the distance, had to check it out. Then I'd find a small brook and followed it to its source. Then I'd notice the waterfall in the distance and climb it. Then aggro a bear and FUSRODAH it off of the waterfall.

Playing Dark Souls right now. No quest markers. No Maps even. Wander down the wrong hallway and you get crushed by a big mean guy you weren't meant to fight yet.

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.

The best solution I have seen in this was in the getaway on PS2 when you needed to turn the indicator on the car would come on, so simple but worked really well.

I think Borderlands 2 does it right, on your map there will be a big circle and somewhere in there is your objective, it still makes you work for it. Just not completely aimlessly.

In games like Skyrim, you don't have an objective marker; you can look for the darn cave/chest/shrine/tower for ages. Of course you lose yourself better.

In Assassin's Creed, you gotta know what you're running after...

My solution: OPTiONAL DiSPLAY. Maybe just hints & a compass instead of a dumb arrow.

chozo_hybrid:
I think Borderlands 2 does it right, on your map there will be a big circle and somewhere in there is your objective, it still makes you work for it. Just not completely aimlessly.

Like!

xear0:
Playing Dark Souls right now. No quest markers. No Maps even. Wander down the wrong hallway and you get crushed by a big mean guy you weren't meant to fight yet.

This whole article is pretty much a list of reasons why Yahtzee should be playing Dark Souls. Meanwhile, his Dark Souls article is a list of excuses about why he doesn't have to understand a game before passing judgement. Dark Souls doesn't start bad and get good like Yahtzee seems to imply in that article. It's good from the start. But you may not appreciate it until you understand what you're playing and why it is the way it is. Back before video games as a medium were reduced to a homogenized series of endless button and HUD tutorials, that really wasn't uncommon. Coming to grips with something intimidating and strange is how you used to distinguish great innovative titles from trash. Now if you haven't played it fifty times before, it must be doing something wrong.

So, you want games that don't hold your hand, but you literally won't even try to play the most iconic game in that style. They'll start makin' 'em when you start playin' 'em.

It seems like having to be on the hunt and searching and understanding the environment for yourself used to be something that was just in videogames without the developers having to consciously put it in, like hunting for keys in early first person shooters. In the same way, human beings are born with legs without the mother having to consciously will them on throughout the course of the pregnancy. But now the mothers are taking no-leg pills and the midwife is waiting at the end of the bed with a hacksaw because they're afraid the child might spend too much time walking around and not getting the intended life experience. If you see what I mean.

Goddamn it, would you just play Dark Souls and give it a serious try this time? lol

XCom is pretty good- Leading you to crashed spaceships by the use of fire, only leading you to enemies by way of your squad members "hearing something", and then only if you're being too cautious. Treats you like an adult. Then stabs you in the face because you've walked into what was, to be fair, a pretty obvious trap.

I kind of like the Elder scrolls approach, although they might even tone it down a little bit.

What I mean is, once you find something it gets marked on the map. And you can add map markers yourself. That way you can easily find new stuff but you'll still have to discover and search to find them initially. What should be different is that I don't think you need any kind of pointer on the HUD, just allow someone to pull up the map half screen, maby disable running for that mode. Allowing people to navigate relativly easy if they just wanna go where they need to go.

Additionally I do believe that a game, or if you are fussy about that sort of thing only the easy difficulty levels, should have a "give me a tip" function that would flash you a bit of an arrow of something. Maby give it a cooldown. Because games still need to be more widely accesible and some people are naturally terrible terrible path finders.

Playing Vampire the masquerade bloodlines atm and I have to say the fact that there isnt any marker dosnt bother me at all. It actually make finding some stuff rewarding (some time the game dosn't even say the place you need to go you just have to use a bit of logic) instead of just following the written path. Though I would say it work very well in vampire because of the rather small maps.
It also make the missions much more fun when you have to search the whole level and have to figures things out yourself has you progress. Oh I found this key! lets see where it fits and will lead me!

But yea I don't mind arrows in huge non-linear game if the quests objectives isnt to find an item/something in an a place and the the arrow is right above the thing (instead of disapearing when u enter the said place) I'm looking at you bethesda.

Actually Mr. Croshaw, though I know you're just joking, I think you have it right about for you. The developers, studios, QAs, etc are much MUCH more likely to reflect yourself and conditions and the more if not numerous than heartfelt anedotal feedback..well will be from You. You the games reviewer, developer/exdeveloper, etc. Much as MB ends up pointing out there is a list of buttons for "the academy" they feel gleeful to push and prop up as art or Best or etc.

These things are likely there in no small part no indicators was tried in open world and linear and etc. IT didn't appeal to the lowest common denominator enmass (Shenmue vs GTAIII) or it has been complemented or worked in for the people they hire to make sure they are critically well received, reviewed, and wanted.

I am not *blaming* You or you. Just saying this is likely the cause and the reason it isn't likely to be unadopted until it becomes restandardrized. Low or incharacter UI HUD though seems to be part of the goals of design that was kind of part of AC series and other things. As well as the read flashes as to health bars and etc.

Its not just an image problem. Games have just comfortably reached a tech plateau they can try communicating richly. Of course anyone betting the graphics race is over is going to lose money. But I do seriously think if only by circumstance a new intuitive understood set of tropes or tells are upcoming to be shared not around game play mechanics (regen health, drop/pop/shot 3rd person manshooters, brown is real) but conveyance of information, direction and etc.

One issue with games though taking their cure from movies is offscreen and before shooting a there are like four people and their staff working on making the actor themselves go, stand, and look where needed and wanted for needs of the film its one of the key talents a director is judged on. That can be...invisible or hard to translate with the interactive media of storytelling especially with core group who wants to defy and outthink you and general audience you fear is always confused and at the edge of bolting or losing interest or belief in your product.

I still say the jump to 3D happened and was forced too soon before everyone is ready and only now we seem to be seriously thinking and cataloguing a full methodology not just... well stumbling on something that works and spamming it.

Raiyan 1.0:
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.

Hardly invalidates my argument. Lousy level design is lousy level design and objective markers are just the shit frosting on the shit cake. If its possible to turn off objective markers then generally 1) the game can stand on its own without them or 2)the devs just dont give a shit that they made a game that cant be played without help and dont care if you find that out.

Some people Need objective markers even in well designed games, just taking them out isnt a good answer; Look on them as a parameter like easy/normal/hard. Some people can find a cigarette butt in a pile of identical cigarette butts, however they suck at combat, while others could chop up a horde of goons with a butter knife but would have trouble finding their way out of a house without a map. More options means more inclusiveness, more inclusiveness means more people enjoying games.

I think the reason for markers is because we are often unable to ask NPCs where given objects/buildings/people are. I feel like games should allow us to ask basic questions that a normal person could ask. If you allowed this sort of question, objective markers become unnecessary in many cases.

Thinking about it. I think the arrows encourage lazy map design. For exemple Skyrim and Oblivion and the likes are just big empty maps with important place far apart from each other.

The removal of markers would encourage smarter and more intersting designs imo.

Maps and the ability to put markers yourself is nice though!

As I recall from games like Silent Hill 3 and MegaMan Legends 2, where you had to go to a map screen for your map (or a large enough version to see anything), the pause menu becomes visited every time a room is no longer bothered with. So a simple toggle seems silly..

Also, I'd like to point out Phantasy Star 1. The game featured maze-like first-person RPG dungeon crawling. An interesting design that was lovely on the eyes.

Having absolutely no map, however, any location that was creatively complex became a nightmare if you didn't sit about and pencil a map during the entirety of game play. It was certainly a unique feature only a few years later where a large view of the area and maps replaced it. However, looking back, the process is tedious and stops you to a grinding halt every time a bit of creativity is put into an area's layout. As such, games like Megami Tensei of that time (which had an active map menu, but the same first-person perspective) feel like they haven't aged nearly as bad.

So, I understand the sentiment. It would work rather well if you could grasp a rather healthy view of your surroundings (empty fields, etc where your view was essentially a map), but games like Infamous and Assassin's Creed 1-2 have you going passed so many similar-looking houses, people, and vehicles in congested environments during so many points in the games that removing a map altogether would require you to climb buildings just to get your bearings.

Unless.. you make your own map. In which case, you get a tedious self-made auto-map. Make that a game mechanic and you get the barely successful Etrian Odyssey series.

I think in general, markers should appear when you ask for them, but not before. Red Faction Guerilla did the breadcrumb trail thing, but I didn't complain because it only appeared when I opened up the map and asked it "Where the hell is the road to that damn mission?" They shouldn't be there all the time, or you end up staring at the minimap instead of the actual game. But they should definitely be there, because inevitably someone will miss whatever cues you put into the level design and you shouldn't leave them running in circles and getting frustrated.

Possibly the simplest direction marker I've seen is in Mirror's Edge: Hold down a button, and your character looks in the direction you should be going. Simple, no HUD elements, and you don't have to stop and dig out the map when cops are chasing you.

z121231211:

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.

That's exactly the problem, the games are designed with the quest markers in mind, so when you turn them off the games just... break. For example, a guy tells you to go kill some other guy, and doesn't tell you where it is, because there's the quest marker, duh. Oh wait, you turned that off? Uh... good luck then sucker!

Skyrim is the worst offender but other games do this as well, Dishonored is a recent one where there are moments that you just have no idea where to go unless you turn on the quest markers.

Fantastic article, Yahtzee. I remember the magic of Morrowind, and writing down footnotes on my map and looking for landmarks to complete quests. I think that's one of the biggest reasons why Oblivion and Skyrim don't quite have the same immersion and magic to them. Quests have become lazy, and so has completing them.

Also, can we talk about the absolute worse instance of this? The only thing I remember from Fable 2 and Fable 3 was a glowing breadcrumb trail. Tragic.

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.

Taking on board this mentality, I just don't understand why they can't make them a toggle feature.

Personally I found Dishonoured was far more engrossing without all the markers (I prefer minimal HUDs in general), though when it came to mission objectives the game was rather vague about directions and didn't lend itself to an organic experience. The fact I was given the ability to customise the interface (on a console believe it or not) was remarkably satisfying.

Is it really that hard to turn aspects of HUD on or off?

That said, I'm seeing more and more games giving the player some control over the amount of information being fed to them via HUD markers. Hopefully this customisability will catch on on future major releases.

samahain:
In games like Skyrim, you don't have an objective marker; you can look for the darn cave/chest/shrine/tower for ages. Of course you lose yourself better.

This is actually a much more fun way to play the game. I didn't particularly like Skyrim, but the most fun I had in it was when I started off the game and decided not to use any quest markers, compasses or in game maps. All I had to help me find my way was the map that came in the game case. I ended up identifying major rivers and using the direction they flowed to help orient myself. Unfortunately this didn't last long because the only way to turn off all of those is make the entire HUD invisible, which leads to other difficulties like accidentally stealing people's stuff all the time.

I agree with Yahtzee though, however I think that most games can't just drop the objective pointers without any other changes. They need to make sure you know where you should be going next and what you should be doing next. Even something as simple as more descriptive dialog could accommodate for that though. In too many games I just find myself running from objective to objective without having any idea why or what exactly I'm doing. I think that's a big flaw in a game if I am able to complete an entire level without having the slightest idea of what is being accomplished or done.

I do like the idea of more natural exploring without quest markers. But to do it properly, that can't be a decision to make at the end of development. Sure, you can turn of the quest marker in Oblivion, but since the quests assume you have the marker, the quest dialogue won't give you enough information. I think Oblivion has one quest where you're asked to follow a written description without markers. And it works, eventually. But the game world would have to be radically redesigned to make every quest location findable from a written description. It would be fun to ask directions from civilians, but unless every civilian knows everything, it will become a big hassle to hunt down the right civilian every time.

I just worry that doing away with quest markers in open world games will either be games you need to play with the wiki open just to find anything, or would require a world that would A: take much more effort to make, and given a fixed budget will be smaller and B: may feel more unnatural because of the large number of easily identifiable landmarks spread around it.

In any case, I do NOT want to play a computer game that requires me to keep a pen and paper on hand. If I really have to manually record plot-relevant information, give me a way to do it in-game. A big reason why I couldn't get into Star Control 2. If the game wants you to find a planet based on coordinates that get mentioned once, please add a damn chat-log that lets me search in everything that's said to me. It wasn't that much text.

Al_:
XCom is pretty good- Leading you to crashed spaceships by the use of fire, only leading you to enemies by way of your squad members "hearing something", and then only if you're being too cautious. Treats you like an adult. Then stabs you in the face because you've walked into what was, to be fair, a pretty obvious trap.

Well, until Sectoids which I knew where hiding over there suddenly decided to teleport behind me.

On topic: I like arrows. I make it a mission to AVOID the arrows at first, but then decide following the damn things is better once I realise the developers couldn't really be screwed adding anything more for the curious bunch.

Turning off arrows, mini-maps would be nice (as many mentioned). It can't be too hard, to turn off flashing arrows, or to hide mini-maps, no?

I used to really like the quest markers but then I played Skyrim and took an arrow to the knee...

I'll show myself out.

IIRC games do offer the option to turn the HUD off... I've done it in Assassin's Creed Revelations, and I had no idea where I was. But after a few days of that, I was able to make my way through Constantinople. Not sure how well I would do now as it has been a while since I was in that game, but I think I'd do okay, at least with that top section of the map.

Something that was really nice was that you can mark a destination on your map, and when you go into eagle vision mode you see this giant glowing beacon telling you where to go.

Some games need it, and other don't. Some games you'd probably want to leave a few days for the player to get used to the map before they do anything. Simple missions like, go to the store and buy some milk, deliver this letter to the mayors office. However stuff like that gets boring very quickly. Game developers want to grab players' attention, not make them feel like they're doing chores. Players want to jump right into the action, so to get them to the action, we have the HUD that tells players every single thing about the game.

It is a real shame because after I turned the HUD off, I realized how much detail and placement went into the world, and was able to appreciate how far the draw distance goes, also little patterns that get repeated around the world.

I've told people in the past that video games are fun things to look at, but when you're playing, you only see the boarders until it is time for combat.

I vote that "spunk-gargle-weewee" is now a thing!

This reminds me of my days in Morrowind, where, while it was fun finding places by journal descriptions alone,

I once got so frustrated trying to find a certain tomb in the Ashlands that I gave up and looked for in the in the Construction Set.

Seriously, the Ashlands only use like, 2 tree and rock models. Saying a tomb is "down that one path by a rock and left of a tree" means shit.

Jodah:
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.

That's the entire point, isn't it? Because of the bloody markers, the designers don't need to type 'Kill 10 Rabid Pheasants located to the north of town' because they know the player will just follow the marker. Because of that, the location of the pheasants is a metagame aspect, never interacting with the game world, what diminishes it. Likewise, an arrow showing you where to go to reach your goal lets designers be lazy with the level design - instead of creating a level that clearly informs the player where they should go they just create whatever and the markers lead them on. (Conversely, play Slime Bomb Knight and marvel at how each screen's goal is always clear even though the game only works because it forbids itself from using any sort of video game indicator.)

Markers are a crutch, and if you start walking with a crutch when you don't need one you'll end up needing it soon.

As far as I'm concerned, arrows should all be done away with and if you're confused about where to go that is the game's fault. The game world should lend itself to showing you where you need to go. Ask NPCs for directions, look at a map, look at street signs, whatever. But even worse is the use of arrows in linear games, often in addition to an NPC telling you to do that very same thing and the objective appearing in text on the screen. Most recently this has thoroughly annoyed me in the first part of AC3, having to climb up a wall in a theatre and getting a marker for the exact column I should climb, despite it being the only climbable column due to absence of a light fixture. In other words, I could have figured it out myself very easily. I can't help but be annoyed when a game thinks I need handholding every step of the way and gives me no credit for having the basic skills that all humans have.

Di-Dorval:
Thinking about it. I think the arrows encourage lazy map design. For exemple Skyrim and Oblivion and the likes are just big empty maps with important place far apart from each other.

The removal of markers would encourage smarter and more intersting designs imo.

Maps and the ability to put markers yourself is nice though!

What are you smoking? I think the only thing that really changes is your perception of the maps, since they're actually VERY diverse and detailed.

The Random One:

Jodah:
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.

That's the entire point, isn't it? Because of the bloody markers, the designers don't need to type 'Kill 10 Rabid Pheasants located to the north of town' because they know the player will just follow the marker. Because of that, the location of the pheasants is a metagame aspect, never interacting with the game world, what diminishes it. Likewise, an arrow showing you where to go to reach your goal lets designers be lazy with the level design - instead of creating a level that clearly informs the player where they should go they just create whatever and the markers lead them on. (Conversely, play Slime Bomb Knight and marvel at how each screen's goal is always clear even though the game only works because it forbids itself from using any sort of video game indicator.)

Markers are a crutch, and if you start walking with a crutch when you don't need one you'll end up needing it soon.

Dwarf Fortress taught me otherwise. Those who use crutches before needing it end up stronger than those who don't, and are better off if they do lose their ability to move without a crutch. And, you can throw or put the crutch away, and still benefit from it forever. Conversely, it also teaches you that using a crutch when you don't need it hinders you as much as when you do, and even if you throw it away, it stays with you. But then again, Dwarf Fortress is silly

z121231211:
"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.

Unfortunately about 90% of the side quests give you no indication of where the maguffin you need to find is, apart from "a cave" or "bandit camp" and because the quests are randomised they don't even give names of the places, and you can't work off prior experience.
I was once asked by a captain to retrieve some cargo that had just been stolen by pirates in the sea at the Northern coast, and the cargo was in the bottom of a bandit & vampire infested cave... in pretty much the most south-western corner of the map: a totally mountainous area nowhere near the sea. Or the argonian in Windhelm who told me she lost her amulet while exploring a cave, said amulet turned out to be at the bottom of a dragur dungeon... I find it unlikely she accidentally managed to wander all the way down there. The random nature leads to those types of really unlikely circumstances, which doesn't help immersion.

As Yahtzee said, giving directions of "Down the path, take a left at the windmill" I think would have made a huge difference to playability of the main quests, instead of the hunt the arrow session that all Skyrim quests inevitably become, and removing the randomised location of the maguffin hunting would have allowed them to make more interesting and engaging sidequests too as they could add something extra rather than Get location from questgiver, get to chest, take item, return item to questgiver.

I hear that they actually noted this and changed the Dawnguard quests accordingly to include more exploration, but it's a shame it hadn't been present in the vanilla game from the start.

If this is how he reacts to something as insignificant as objective markers in current titles, he is going to pop a blood vessel over one part of Halo 4 when he reviews it.

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