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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 3:00 pm 
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A map in an action-adventure game is composed of several side-scrolling areas. In any area, the camera may face north, west, or east.

  • In N-facing areas, left is west and right is east.
  • In W-facing areas, left is south and right is north.
  • In E-facing areas, left is north and right is south.

These areas are connected by warps. Walking off the left or right side of the map is a warp, as is walking "down" or "up" onto a path. If the player leaves the screen through a down or up path, an animation of walking on that path is played briefly, and then the camera changes to the new area. The same is true if the player enters the screen through a map-side warp that leads to down or up paths.

Many of these up or down paths have a distinctive object near the junction, such as a building or a rock formation. These are displayed from a different angle once the player in the other area.

At the top right corner of the screen, the game also displays the compass direction that the player's character faces. This is "W" or "E" in a N-facing area, or "N" or "S" in a W- or E-facing area, depending on whether the character is facing left or right. It also changes appropriately during exit and entrance transitions: walking on an up path from N-facing area to W-facing area changes the letter from W or E to N during the animation, and then it remains N as the player enters the area facing right.

Could the player maintain a sense of direction and navigate across the warp with just the three cues of exit and entrance animations, common objects between views, and the compass indicator? Would it be enough to add a map in the game's pause menu? Or would the player need an always-on map to make sense of the geography, such as that in the upper left corner of The Legend of Zelda and Super Metroid?

I've included a sample, with a house at the corner of maps 1 and 2 and a rock formation at the corner of maps 2 and 3.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:18 pm 
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tepples wrote:
Could the player maintain a sense of direction and navigate across the warp with just the three cues of exit and entrance animations, common objects between views, and the compass indicator? Would it be enough to add a map in the game's pause menu? Or would the player need an always-on map to make sense of the geography, such as that in the upper left corner of The Legend of Zelda and Super Metroid?

Absolutely, if the screens are designed well enough, a compass or a map, wouldn't even be necessary!
I've been planning a beat 'em up for my next game, and the city's streets are snapped onto such a grid.

Since you can see certain buildings from other streets, it's actually very difficult to get lost in the city, despite it's size.
(I'd post a screenshot, but the game is NSFW.)


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:38 pm 
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It's a really cool idea, and it's hard to know how easy it would be to make a mental model.

My guess, though, is that unless the background graphics did a great job of providing a lot of cues, it would be really hard to maintain a sense of direction without a map. A top-down map would certainly help, I think. And I'd guess that having it on a pause scene would be sufficient, as long as the pausing/unpausing was fast enough that the player didn't mind quick peeks at the map.

That's purely based on my own experience, judging from how disorienting I find games like Rambo, as well as feeling disoriented in 3d first-person games as well. But maybe I'm just bad with making mental models in games, so take that with a grain of salt.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 6:09 pm 
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Your idea of a compass is interesting, but I probably would get lost fast.
Fantastic Dizzy(PAL version) presents player a small tunnel map inside a warp. In there, you have a map with player position shown, although it probably wont work in your case.
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Like gauauu said, I probably would prefer a topdown map.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2018 11:57 pm 
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Fez does this kinda, and you can get lost easily... it would depend upon how many areas you have and how they link I guess.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:03 am 
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A few games try to do that, and I don't think it ever really worked out. Some popular examples from the NES would be Friday the 13th (which is famous for how much it confuses people), and Clash at Demonhead.

I'd say if orientation is a central aspect to your game, it's not going to work. Especially having some areas where north is left, and similar looking areas where north is right - no matter how much you do to label that difference, it's gonne be counterintuitive to the player.

However, if the interconnectedness of your game's world is merely a part of the atmosphere and world building, I'd say you are free to do it however you feel like, and when the player ends up discovering areas that connect and it starts to make sense, that's just a nice experience.

My personal thoughts is that if you want orientation and finding your way through the world to be an active element of the game, I think you should design your world in a way that makes it intuitive to the player. Make sure all your primary action scenes are have west to the left, and east to the right, and if you want to have north/south facing segments that connect those, design them in a visually very different style so that the player gets an intuitive experience of them representing something different than the other scenes.

In short, there's a reason why every sidescrolling platformer with interconnected areas always place all rooms on the same plane. Alternatively, think something like Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia, where you still have the classic 2D maps, but with a static overworld map that allows you to move between those areas.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:47 am 
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It's never going to work, at least not as long as you're using standard side-view graphics. If the graphical style make uses some pseudo-3D elements such as the rooms in Goonies II or the rear view stage 2 and stage 4 in Contra, this might work, but then you can probably not rotate the camera by scrolling without it looking super-weird.

You could also do your rooms cylindrical shaped and do your pseudo-3D with sprites moving along the circle. That's probably what would work the best.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 9:42 am 
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I included a compass in Isolation (probably some screens in my graphics thread that show it). Camera direction varies, like what I believe you're describing. I didn't include it because I thought it was necessary (I always try to have shared elements visible from different views), but because I had extra space in the HUD to fill and figured it wouldn't hurt.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:32 am 
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If you use a minimap, you could point the direction of the player character (and update it when the PC turns).

A compass is something you need to decode a bit more.

You could make so that the sun/moon and lightning direction implies a sense of direction. If the sun sets in the west, you've got shadows to the east, which will be right if the camera faces north, and left if the camera faces south. That way the compass doesn't need to be part of the HUD. Regardless, you might want to do this anyway not to confuse the player.


For what little i've played minecraft, i always placed torches on the right hand side of caves so i knew that if they were on the left hand instead, i was facing the direction back.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 10:52 am 
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If you DO end up doing it, and include a map to help finding your way around, please make sure the map rotates to match the orientation of the "camera", but of course with north being clearly marked on the map, so it is obvious when it turns.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 11:04 am 
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This is a matter of personal taste but i find it easier if the players' direction in the form of an arrow rotates, rather than the whole map. Depends on the genre, but still. Anyway, it's much easier to implement in a good looking way.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 2:27 pm 
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FrankenGraphics wrote:
You could make so that the sun/moon and lightning direction implies a sense of direction.

I was going to suggest this last night, but I was clumsy and lost my post. It might not be a substitute for a map, but the lighting and the map/compass would reinforce each other and make it much easier to figure out which way you're facing.

I doubt moonlight is going to be super useful if streetlights are a thing, but if you could see the moon itself it might help. Even in a heavily urbanized area, you could catch a glimpse of it between buildings now and then, and maybe see reflections in windows, if it were low enough in the sky.

You could even have a time-of-day mechanic and an in-game clock. If the lighting and shadows changed based on the position of the sun, the player could engage in somewhat realistic urban orienteering. (This could even work in a tropical setting.) Start the player off at some easily-recognizable time, like 9 am or something, and progress to night levels and cloudy/rainy days once he's got some idea of what he's doing and where the landmarks are. I'm not sure how easy it would be to do this sort of thing on NES, but the SNES might make it easier. SNES makes a lot of things easier...

I can't help but notice that the OP implicitly excludes the case of a south-facing camera. No idea why, unless this is a game already well into development and there's another reason he's made that choice...

FrankenGraphics wrote:
This is a matter of personal taste but i find it easier if the players' direction in the form of an arrow rotates, rather than the whole map. Depends on the genre, but still. Anyway, it's much easier to implement in a good looking way.

If you can be on either side of a street (e.g. camera facing either east or west), it might be a good idea to rotate the map. Otherwise it could be a source of confusion (which way was my character facing when I paused?), and I'm not sure having a player indicator AND a camera indicator would be a sufficiently intuitive solution. The combination of a compass on the map screen and at least one major off-centre landmark on the map itself could mitigate the orientation problem with a rotating map.

On the other hand, if the map is of sufficiently high resolution to make highlighting one side or the other of a street feasible, that might be intuitive enough...

It's not hard to make a rotating map look good when you're using Mode 7... diagonal streets anyone? Curved streets?

I'm just going by instinct here. I've never played a game like this.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2018 3:15 pm 
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93143 wrote:
I can't help but notice that the OP implicitly excludes the case of a south-facing camera. No idea why, unless this is a game already well into development and there's another reason he's made that choice...

Yes, this is a game in development, and I'm pretty sure I could convince my teammates that a south-facing camera would prove too confusing.


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