Journal Discussed – Maps, Cartography, and Navigation

Explorers often get a raw deal in many MMOs. There is this whole wide world, but nothing new, nothing unknown, nothing that actually requires exploring. That is what makes me excited about the cartography skill, it is what made me excited enough to make it the topic of my first ever blog post three months ago. I am really pleased to see that now we know more about the topic all those things that I was excited about, expansive skills, exploration, community interaction, are all there. If you haven’t caught up yet head over to the Journal Abridged to get all the details.

Of course with all my excitement I still had questions about the new system, as did many other members of the community. Luckily with an active developer team no question goes unanswered for too long… well as long as you do not ask about magic or combat. How they are still keeping those systems a secret I do not know. Let us find ourselves on the map and travel our way through tedious clichés and see what else we learnt about maps, cartography and navigation this week.

Without everyone having access to a full set of accurate maps it could well be that we will be spending a fair amount of time lost. How do we get out of that sticky situation? Well Kalrianna, responding to the MMORPG article, wondered if they might have found a work around. While we might not know our way home, what about our offline-selves. Would an OPC find their way home?

Because of the way the OPC scripting work, your OPC would remain lost.

Right well there goes that plan! Though to be honest it is for the best. A game where our characters are actually better off without us is a strange thought, and one that I think would quickly lead to a very empty world with people logging out to make tasks easier. So if you get lost, you are the one that needs to find your way out, or at least find someone who can take you back home.

So we know we as a player are still needed, but how can our character help us? Well, the topic that caught my eye was the idea of a mini-map that allowed you to get an idea of what your character is sensing around them. Most games focus on the visual, or to some extent sounds too, however the smell? Not seen that one before. I was intrigued how that might work:

Currently it’ll work like sonar, but without the little sonar waves and the annoying sound. Basically, if you get within proximity of something you hear or smell, it’ll show up on the map. There’s no skill currently associated with it, but like D&D of old, there’s kind of a passive “perception” trait which will be tied to your character Intuition attribute.

I think this could work well. However, it could give too much information and become overwhelming (Oh a smell, a rustle, a bird tweeting, another smell, oh a twig snapped! Argh.) or too little information to very predictable (Oh a smell, it will be a bear). It is a tight balance, and one that is only likely to be found through testing. A job I am happy to volunteer for.

However, there is one thing in this Developer Journal that really made me smile. Naming. Such a simple concept. This is the players world, they get to name the places. But something, that no one else has done is such a dynamic way. To be honest I do not think it is something any other company would do, even if they did think of it. It requires a certain trust in the player-base, a trust that if some abuse it others will make it right. I find it very refreshing that a game is actually treating us like adults and letting us customise things with out assuming everyone will descend into childish games (though… come on… there will be a bit, it is only natural!). Rightly Jeromy ‘Caspian’ Walsh is proud of the system:

I thought of that idea a year or so ago. And I’ve been keeping it to myself since then. It just seems logical that in a dynamic world people should be able to name the places. And there’s all kinds of cool features that come from that… lost civilizations, etc…

He is right the number of interesting details this adds is brilliant. Over throwing an evil tyrant allows you to change the name of the town over time, or if you are the evil tyrant change the town to be named in your honour! It lets people give their own home a name. It makes people feel like they have an impact on the world they live in. All in all it just seems to fit so well into the world of Elyria.

So maps, cartography, and navigation. Three elements of an interesting system. There are still things left unanswered, things that only the passage of time will let us know for sure. Will players use in game maps or will they use online sites? Will everything be named after Pokemon (or a slightly more current and up to date pop culture franchise)? Will all my maps look like they have be drawn by a child with a crayon? Well actually we know the answer to that last one.

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