2012 24 Aug

Exploring the Map #1: Why we love worldmaps

Categories: Game Design

There is this another pen&paper roleplaying system beside D&D most of us at Coreplay spent time with in the 90s: Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye) which most gamers outside of Germany may actually know mostly for the computer games based on it. The first trilogy of DSA computer games (that were heavily influenced by the Gold Box games from SSI) were released as Realms of Arkania in English. The first of them called Blade of Destiny (Die Schicksalsklinge) was first released in 1992 (and then in the US in 1993) for Amiga and PC. One thing that might be worth noting for you CRPG addicts is that the game was designed by Guido Henkel who also produced probably one of the best CRPGs of all time: Planescape: Torment.



What was cool about the game was that it was also very open in its design. You had to find a legendary sword and to find that sword you had to put together a map that would reveal its location on the world map. The map pieces were randomized so you might find one trading with a merchant on the road or as a reward for solving a quest that might otherwise only reward you with some gold. This design didn’t only give the game a lot of replay value it also made travelling the world a big part of the game. Quests would often lead you form one city to another and you would have to travel for several days and set up camp for the night on your journey.

Most of the other games we mentioned before have similar elements. We did highlight Ultima for the exploration of Britannia alone, remember? And our fondest memories of Phantasie include the random encounters that would make each journey an adventure. And remember that first time in Pool of Radiance you started moving that little horse around? Suddenly everything seemed possible!

From today’s point of view it is pretty clear why a world map or a world layer was such a clever design element in a game: It didn’t require the developer to fill up a whole world’s worth of cities and woods with buildings and trees and yet it gave the world epic proportions without forcing the player to travel for hours. If you take a look at modern RPGs that have a huge seamless world in full 3D you notice that the designers also had to find a way to fasten up the travelling. Something to think about the next time you ride a griffin in World of Warcraft or you use the map screen to fast travel in Skyrim!

As a small developer we are not really interested in filling a world with things that the player might just skip through or pass flying over. We want you to do your own travelling from one town to the next. We want you to have some sense of vastness that invites you to explore! There is this small path into the woods that strays from the broad and comfy road you are travelling on. Might be worth exploring! Maybe you will find the ruins of a small village that surely holds some treasure. On the other hand – the woods pretty dark. Maybe it’s full of undead warriors that fell trying to defend their homes and have been roaming the area for the last 200 years.

Including a world layer in Chaos Chronicles is a good and yet cost efficient way for us to build a larger world that is open for you to explore. If you’re not feeling that adventurous just stay on the road, it’s safe. Mostly. The world layer is not just a filler between two dungeons. It will add something to your experience that would be much harder to achieve otherwise: The feeling of delving into a large and unknown continent.