Do Minimaps Destroy MMORPG Immersion?

I’ve picked up a weird yet interesting article today from MassivelyOP. Apparently there’s an hardcore old-school indie MMO out there called “Saga of Lucimia”, that focuses on group content and deep immersion. While that alone isn’t a shocker, one of their devs recently even spoke out against minimaps in a forum post.

[su_quote]So from day one we knew we weren’t going to include a minimap in our MMORPG. No glowing trails leading you from point A to point B. No flashing icons over NPC heads telling you who you need to talk to. You’ll have to immerse yourself in the world if you want to get around. You’ll have to actually pay attention to conversations and dialogue because there will be valuable clues and directions, landmarks and waypoint that you need to look for.[/su_quote]

No minimaps? Switch on your brain!

I personally think it’s interesting and valid. At several points during my time in Neverwinter, I was majorly annoyed that I wasn’t able to maneuver through maps without bringing up the minimap even though the area was live for months. You always think that at some point, you will have memorized a map. But in fact you don’t, at least not remotely as fast as you would expect. Until today, I still struggle to find my way back to the village in the huge Storm Kings Thunder maps. Am I dumb, or am I just used to getting everything handed out on a silver platter?

It’s certainly undeniable that bringing up your minimap is one of those cookie cutter ways of moving around. Not sure where you are? Press M! If you start thinking about it, it’s actually amazing how unnecessary this is. We are humans, our brains offer all the tools we need to get along. But a theme-park MMO, you don’t need any of it. Are we really that lazy nowadays?

Challenge, Skill and Immersion

Which brings us to a more global perspective. What do you want out of a game? If just logging in, casually playing a game and not having to think about it is your thing, then you probably won’t complain. But for those that want to get challenged, and expect skill to matter, it’s not a great setup. Also without challenges, things can get boring pretty fast. Immersion is important, it keeps players with the game. If you connect with a title and put in effort to figure out stuff, you tend to stay longer. Obviously just taking away the minimap won’t make or break immersion, but if can help, why not just do it?

Deactivating the minimap in a game like Neverwinter seems weird and an unnecessary decrease of convenience. On the other hand, you challenge your players on a very basic level each and every day, promote social interaction and urge them to come up with their own resources. What’s not to like?

What’s your opinion on immersion and everyday challenge using the example of minimaps? Share your thoughts in the comments below and visit the corresponding thread on our message board!

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j0Shi plays the Neverwinter MMORPG since the open BETA in 2013 and is a regular contributor to the blog and the whole UN:Project. Originally a Guardian Fighter, he has built up ALTs of all classes and plays on BIS/near-BIS level.

6 thoughts on “Do Minimaps Destroy MMORPG Immersion?

  • November 28, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    That’s fine in single-player games like Daggerfall and Morrowind, which had no sparkly trails and way markers, and Skyrim where they could be turned off with mods (although they all had overland maps). Morrowind did not even have fast travel, except by Silt Strider, boat or Mage/Daedric Teleporter. I made a map showing all the routes. But in Neverwinter it would be a nightmare as everything is against the clock to get your dailies and weeklies done. The last thing people want is something to slow that down.

    I always got lost in Sharandar for the longest time, although I now know where everything is and can usually tell where I am. It’s not helped by various areas recycling the same basic maps. Having to check the journal to see how many cairns I need to purify in IWD, and then visit them all because there’s no map showing the last one I need to do, would be a real pain and actually break immersion for me.

    But the sort of immersion you get from Morrowind and Skyrim seems antithetical to the MMO genre. Most people stampede through dungeons leaving loot on the ground, no one wants to “explore” anything they have seen before, dungeons were “streamlined” in Mod 6 by having various subterranean and “secret” areas removed (crypts, caverns, Daughter of Lolth etc) to facilitate Speed Runs at player request, while the high-end goal seems to be to post a video on YT of “The Fastest Ever ToNG Run” etc. And the Non-Role-Player, non-AD&D fan to Role-Playing AD&D fan seems to be 100:1.

    My immersion comes from creating the characters and their histories. Some I like because they move fast, some kill fast, some are very tanky. But my favourite class changes all the time, as does my favourite character. Some I like because they a funny (my Halflings make me laugh as they are so tiny and hyper-active), some look cool, some have nice fashion gear etc.

    One of the biggest mistakes NW made, in a huge catalogue of mistakes, was moving fashion gear from the Zen Market to the Tarmalune Trade Bar store. They should have reduced the price and made each purchase account-wide, like mounts. I am still trying to find a round shield for my Dwarf IV GF, to go with his spear. But there are none in the game! There are two fashion items that sort of mimic the look I want. One is from an annual event and the other from an area I have not visited yet. If I could only then find a cloak as the upper body fashion item, or if we could use neck transmutes on fashion items, I’d be set.

    The best thing in that article on Saga of Lucimia is it’s a subscription game (as long as there is NO cash shop at all). The worst thing is the lack of solo play.

    It might work for that game, but it would not work in Neverwinter.

    • November 28, 2017 at 4:20 pm

      Thanks for your well-thought-out opinion!

  • November 29, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I have minimap on my smartphone and I’m actually using it periodically because city I’m living in is very big. So argument about immersion is questionable. It is just navigation magic everyone is using. Get used to advanced magical techology and stop complaing about progress.

    Minimaps can be avoided only if terrain is radically different and there are distinct and realistic 3d big landmarks. Also it is good only if game area is very small, as human learning capacity is limited. In the current copy-paste terrain with very few noticeable landmarks, there is no way for people to orient. TESO one of few games where copy-paste is not so rampant, at least trees are different and some have remarkable shapes. In NWN – everyithing looking similar on the map.

    Gaming is not full time job for most of players, and it is quite naive to expect them to memorize terrain. They have job or study to fill their brain and came to game to relax. So why to burden them with memorizing?

  • August 18, 2018 at 7:36 pm

    People now days want easy.They will never get the sense of accomplishment that one did when they hit max level in eq1 or lienage 2. I like the no waypoints or helper to quests. most people don’t even read quests anymore due to the arrow will take em to it. So they miss a lot of storyline. Real quests u got to work to find u have to pay attention to directions and it makes u more socialable cause a lot of times u have to ask someone to show u.You will never find a lot of players who truly are good with there character like back in the eq1 days making mistakes could cost u along time grinding so u pretty much learned quick the limits of your character I hope they will atleast make one mmo like this in near future for folks who really want a challenge cause ive yet to see any mmos that pose challenges like eq1 did. take the hardest dungeon in game and its a cake walk compared to old school raIDS

  • August 20, 2018 at 10:38 pm

    uh no, lol, sometimes following that golden trail will get you completely lost in a new area…. feel free to turn off your minimap btw, I mostly use it to keep track of players, and the ghost in omu……. and to you ppl saying things like “theyll never know what it was like to blah blah blah evercrack” when was the last time you adventured anywhere off your damn couch? lmao

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