Mini maps in video games are designed to help you navigate your way through a foreign game world. These maps also help to show points of interest around you and help to show where your current objectives are. Although they’re purpose is to help you, sometimes they can do the complete opposite. In this post I will be covering the different map types, problems, and how some of these problems could be mended.
Bottom mini maps
Arguably the most common map type in games is also the one with the most problems. The games that feature this type of mini map usually have them filled to the brim with points of interest, this is a good thing and a bad thing. On one hand its super handy to have all of this content easily displayed in the corner of the screen; on the other hand having all of this means that you will spend the majority of the time glancing at the little map rather than looking at whats happening on screen.
This was actually a problem for me during my play through of Red Dead Redemption 2. Yes I understand that this game was a masterpiece, but with the combination of wooded forests and grand pastures, I was having to constantly look at my mini map to see if I was heading in the right direction.
An easy fix for the mini map would be to have it fade away after a set amount of time, and have it brought back up with a simple press of a button. This way you wouldn’t feel the need to constantly look at it during gameplay.
What I think is the best type of navigation tool in gaming is the compass bar. Popular in first person open world games, the compass bar was popularized in titles such as the Elder Scrolls series, and Fallout series. The compass bar has even replaced the mini map in the Assassins creed games, as well as the Far Cry series.
As shown above, the compass bar is mainly shown at the top of the screen in their corresponding games. It works by having a north, south, east, and west point. The compass bar will show the direction in which a point of interest, or objective, is to your current camera position. For example, if you go to your full map and see that your next objective is north; then you can go back to the game and head north until you hit it. This is easier because you don’t have to constantly be looking at the bottom corner of your screen to see where you are going, rather you just have to look at your current direction.
I think that this is a perfect way to do navigation in a game and see no problems with it.
No mini map or compass bar
The less popular way of navigation in a video game involves the player having to memorize the landscape of the game. This is the most challenging form of navigation, but also the most rewarding. Instead of having to look at a map you can just remember landmarks nearby and head to your desired location; this is quicker than having to manually place a marker on a map.
A good mix of having the compass bar, and no navigation besides a full map you can access in menus, is the perfect balance. An example would be to have the compass bar at the top of the screen, and have it disappear after a set time with a button press to bring it back.
I would love to hear your opinions on this matter. A fan of the mini map? Hate the compass bar? Let me know in the comments below.