The map system in Horizon: Zero Dawn is one my favorite examples of simplified and streamlined wayfinding design.
Game series’ like Assassin’s Creed or Far Cry or Grand Theft Auto have had robust mini-map systems for years now, and they often need them for the sheer breadth of types of activities that are available near the player character at any given time.
And that works sometimes. But in the last 5 years, UI design has descended into cyclical tropes that have informed their games’ design in complex and “meta” ways, some that game designers may only see the surface level effects of.
At the most basic level, consider the amount of time a player’s eyes spend on various aspects of the UI. It’s my (unproven) suspicion that in games with visualized mini-maps, the player like spends a fairly large amount of time looking at that map. And, the game and UI designers must understand that at some level, as the often let the map take up 10% or more of the screen. An element of the UI wouldn’t be allowed to take up 10% or more of the visual space of the screen unless it was considered an integral part of the gameplay loop.
But I’m not sure that some designers are thinking of it as a part of the gameplay loop. As an alternative, I think Horizon: Zero Dawn put a massive amount of thought and consideration into their wayfinding system.
Using a subtle collection of visual cues, like size and iconography, and shading/color, the compass system successfully and entirely replaces the need for a mini-map. The player spends more time looking at the world around them, and uses the compass as a general guide to move toward various goals or selected destinations. When necessary, a full map can be opened to get a more detailed spatial sense. It’s such a beautiful and elegant design, and is “minimalism” at its best.
[ Today I Was Playing: Horizon: Zero Dawn ]
December 21, 2018