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2009-09-28

POI Connections Map

In the indie game "The Path", 99% of the gameplay consists of wandering around in the woods. The inherent issue with this is that you get lost. They tried to counteract this by giving you two kinds of maps.

FYI: Sometimes, feeling lost can be a good thing. An integral part of the experience in "The Path" is that you the player "feel" like you're wandering around.

There are a number of POI (points-of-interest). Each of the POI have their own symbol. The major POI are shown constantly on the edge of the screen according to their direction relative to the camera's direction. When you rotate the camera, these POI symbols would move around the edge of the screen. I call this the "heading up" map.

There's also a traditional "north up" map. Where you are on this map is not immediately obvious. The only thing this map shows is the "path" you've taken around the woods. You'd think you could use this to navigate by walking around and following the path you make on the map in real time. "The Path" doesn't let you do that. It only shows you the "north up" map for a few seconds, involuntarily, every 10 minutes or so. This effectively makes the "north up" map completely useless.

This was beyond a doubt the most frustrating aspect of the game. What, I know where I've been but I can only remember every 10 minutes, and only in a brief glimpse? That's not how the human brain works. If the characters are really that addle-brained, then they're too stupid to live. In reality, if we're lost, we seek connections between things we remember.

IMHO, instead of giving priority to the "north up" map's symbolic "path", the "north up" map should of been left out entirely and more effort should of been spent making the "heading up" map more useful.

Here's how I would of done it...

Whenever you're very close to a POI, that POI's symbol would be shown in the center of an always-accessible map window. If there are any POI that are nearby or you know are connected to where you are, their symbols would appear in a "POI ring" around the POI symbol in the center. Whenever you rotate the camera, the POI symbols on the map window would spin around the center so that "up" always means "forward".

Whenever you move away from a POI, the POI symbol ring would be replaced by an indicator that tells you how lost you are. Being "lost" simply means that your character has become disoriented and doesn't trust that they would be able to get back to where they came from. Straying from a straight line, slowing down, stopping, and total distance traveled would all effect how lost you become. If you don't get lost en route from one POI to another, those two POI would then always appear on the POI symbol ring whenever you're next to one of them.

NOTE: It occurs to me that moss on the trees could be used as a kind of "compass". (ex. The moss-covered side of the tree trunk could always be facing west.) Also, it would be prudent to include an option to "return" to your last POI if you're not too lost.

For example, say you're at POI 'A' and start walking in a random direction. Assume you don't get lost, and come across POI 'B'. From then on, 'A' would always be displayed in the POI ring when you're at 'B', and vice-versa.

Depending on how lost you were when you connect two POI, the other POI symbol in the pair may waver or be faded on the POI ring to illustrate your uncertainty. Being less lost the next time you connect the two POI would reduce this uncertainty.

If you make enough connections and travel those connections enough, an outer ring of POIs would start to appear to signify that you not only remember directly-connected POI, but also indirectly-connected POI (think "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon", but limited to two degrees). These "indirect" connections would form a straight line out from the "direct connection". If there's more than one indirect connection known, their symbols would overlap eachother unless you face that direction, at which point they would fan out (as if your character is focusing on trying to remember the different indirect connections).

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