Following the Little Dotted Line | Game Maker's Toolkit



Getting around non-linear games and open worlds is easy: just follow the little dotted line. But is that always the best way to encourage exploration and investigation? Let’s look at some games and ideas – old and new – that offer more involving ways to navigate a landscape.

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Recommended reading / viewing:

“Thief vs. AAA Gaming” by Dom Giuca

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance):

Fallout 4 (Bethesda Game Studios, 2015)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt, 2015)
Deus Ex (Ion Storm, 2000)
Batman: Arkham Knight (Rocksteady Studios, 2015)
Dishonored (Arkane Studios, 2012)
Thief: The Dark Project (Looking Glass Studios, 1998)
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Bethesda Game Studios, 2002)
Fable II (Lionhead Studios, 2008)
Miasmata (IonFx, 2012)
The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (Monolith Productions, 2014)
Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar San Diego, 2010)
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011)
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (Ubisoft Montreal, 2013)
Yakuza 3 (Sega, 2009)
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Nintendo, 2011)
Fallout 3 (Bethesda Game Studios, 2008)

Music used in this episode:

Fallout 4 Main Theme (Fallout 4)
Rebuild, Renew (Fallout 4)
Wandering – The Foothills, Pt. 1 (Fallout 4)
Wandering – The Coast, Pt. 1 (Fallout 4)
Of the People, For the People (Fallout 4)
Fallout 4 Main Theme (Fallout 4)

Fallout 4 OST © Bethesda Softworks

Other credits:

“Let’s Play Fable 2 – Part 3 – Dirty Leonard” – ParkyGames

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41 thoughts on “Following the Little Dotted Line | Game Maker's Toolkit

  1. i started enjoying mirror's edge catalyst a lot more after i turned off the floating red line that's constantly showing you the way. it gave me a chance to actually look around and explore the world

  2. I just realised they tried to give RDR2 The Witcher 3 vibes. That was wrong. It's too bright, too saturated. The original RDR's pallette was much more appropriate for the genre.

  3. I think part of the trouble in the Witcher 3 is that it's just so big. White Orchard is small compared to later parts of the game, and it's far easier to tell where you are without waypoints. Then you get dropped into the massive swamps and marches that make up Velen and you're completely turned around, God forbid you go off road

  4. Sounds good. But in reality this idea is unlimited source of tedious gameplay and hate moments. Main problem that it is nice only when all goes good. But when you are stuck – you hate this system so much that can leave game forever. Also, after middle of the game you become bored of all this "ask-direction-map-orienting" stuff. It is not fun or original to take your time, as said, it is just barrier on your way.
    But I agree that side missions like one in RDR2 should definitely be. No-map works the best as optional limited handy crafted missions

  5. Funny that you say this bc that's kind how I'm playing Horizon…. Not to that extreme. But Letting stuff that interest me guide me

  6. Omg yes I've been playing Assassin's Creed without the minimap and it's so much better. It's just too bad all of them after the first one weren't designed as such.

  7. Not making a point to not change it, but other witchers and most specially Geralt (yeah, he has amnesia, but excluding this) can remember line by line a text they read several decades ago, and they are known to be really good detectives and rangers, and specially Geralt.
    So it makes total narrative sense to me that the secrets are somewhat obvious to him and that he knows exactly his paths, for me it doesn't really make sense for a character like him to get lost, though I agree that great experiences can come from surprises in the world and more freedom of exploration.

  8. Not quite the same thing, but a similar concept is displayed in the original Resident Evils. They tell you almost nothing and just leave you to find and figure out where to go, how to open certain doors, unlock safes, where to find tools and where to use them, all of that good stuff. The original RE2 is by far one of my favourite games of all time.

  9. The problem are open words that are too huge to actually explore, because they are mostly empty.
    The Gothic games are a good example. The first 2 are a fraction of the size that is 3. But in 1 and 2 there is no space wasted, there is verticality that make the map and the world feel way bigger than they are, but it's not tidious to travel. It makes exploring a fun endeavor, where there's something to be found behind every rock, without making it unbelievable. In 3 the landscape is beautiful and more realistic, but traveling becomes exhausting and boring fast.

  10. Well for people who tend to focus on exploration figuring out the map by themselves may be fun. But for me who is a player who tend to focus more on actually completing the game without any disturbance things like this would be annoying soon. Maybe it's fun for like 3 or 5 times doing this but for the whole gameplay? When will i finish the game? I still have a lot of games on my list to play.
    If i want to explore I'll explore. With or without the mini map and guiding lines

  11. GTAV fell flat on me because I wasn't engaged with the city, nor the extensive cutscenes, just combat. And at that point it may as well have been a fps

  12. I've had an idea for a game rolling around in my head where the difficulty level chosen at the beginning of the game would affect a lot of these things. It was right around the time that zombie apocalypse media started taking over, so I thought it up around the idea of survivors immediately following the major outbreak(I tired quickly of the "woke up in the hospital after SHTF" trope). On the easiest level of difficulty, your character is a former special forces soldier, which gives you things like better physical fitness(faster/stronger/more stamina), more useful weapons and related skills(faster reloads, better accuracy), and position-tracking GPS. On the highest difficulty, the player is represented by a senior citizen or a parent trying to get their young child to safety. Their story would begin in a more densely populated urban setting, they wouldn't be able to move as fast or carry as much, they wouldn't start with access to the same weapons or have the same degree of proficiency with them, and their navigation would be restricted to hand-drawn maps that didn't show the player's location, and/or weren't as accurate. The idea was to tell the same story of a zombie apocalypse, but from the perspectives of three or four different characters, with the quests and goals changed around to reflect the different priorities of each. That way it can be engaging to players who want/need all the UI amenities, whereas those seeking more of a challenge could play essentially a stripped down version, where everything – not just combat – was more of a challenge. Would anyone reading this play something like that?

  13. I understand where you're coming from but I can't say I personally agree with this assessment. It reminds me a bit of the whole "should a game have fast travel or not" argument? Removing it is more immersive and allows you to smell the roses, but as a game increases in scale it leads to a whole host of frustrations. I really enjoyed the mini-map in the Witcher and while I might have enjoyed smelling the roses for the first 30minutes, the constant searching for locations using in-game landmarks would eventually have become an annoyance. I've experienced it a few times in other games and I am not a fan. A very well put together video, though, and it's nice to see that quite a lot of people agree with you.

  14. I played witcher 3, but I hated it. I spent maybe 5 hours and had no fun at all. Then I started over with the mini map completely disabled. Witcher 3 is now one of my favorite games to just chill with.

  15. That's why I hated Kingdom Come hardcore at first, now I like it. Especially treasure hunting is more fun there

  16. I´m playing Red Dead Redemption 2 using only the map and that minimalist compass to travel through the world. No using the GPS ou that automatic line to the objective. The progress is very slow but at same time It´s very fun and immersive.

  17. So very true. Games have become very casualised and that has taken away from the experience mostly because "WAHHHHHHHHH WAHHHHHHHHHHHHH TOO MUCH EFFORT REQUIREDDDDD". Basically, whiny cry babies with no patience and a history of games handing out instant gratification has melted the minds of people and now an entire generation of games has been ruined. As much as I enjoyed The Witcher 3, that dot shit and the special senses view ruined the shit out of it.

  18. Looking back at some of your old videos… I think this is probably the most influential one for me. It also harkens back to one of my favourite activities that were encouraged in really old games: drawing your own maps, making notes about the game world on pen and paper, and piecing together clues without being led by the nose.

    This is something that I'd love to see make a return – perhaps with a bit of modernisation, like was done in the Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, for its uncharted island puzzle. The map of the island was completely blank, but you could still draw notes on it like normal (using the touch screen and stylus, it was a DS game), and a sign on the island mentioned some treasure buried under the eye. If you followed the coast around the island, drawing the map as you went, you would find that the island was shaped like a big whale, and if you then went and dug by the eye, there was a Heart Piece. I haven't played PH since I was 12, and that moment still sticks in my brain. Something about it was just magical.

  19. You see, they tried to do that in assassin origins, as a very position in the game can me remembered. But they're stucked with the idea of absolute accessibility. Every idiot must be able to complète it easily. So they threw it off. :/

  20. 7:00 You really should take a look at Red Dead Redemption for the ability to turn off and experience the world. You can turn off your compass; and 'check it' with a quick button press. It's a great way to stay in the immersion

  21. I think that more games should have compasses at the top. I didn't used to think that until I played far cry 5 where all your objectives and companions are markers in the world forcing Mr to like spin around constantly to find my friends (it's a coop game, Im not that Lonely)

  22. THANK YOU dude, all I've seen on YouTube so far about The Witcher 3 is praise, which baffles me because the game has almost no gameplay. The fight system is so boring and everything else is all cutscenes. Gwent was the best part, but then they ruined it by trying to turn it into an eSport and changing everything about it

  23. I feel like these lines should be optional but not taken away. As someone with autism, I can’t really study the world enough to scan for those treasure maps and in fact they’re the only thing I’ve never completed once in Skyrim, and that guy explaining how to reach the a destination in the Witcher is really hard for me to keep track of as well. I personally don’t like the older games which demand you discover this large place for yourself unless the goal is to explicitly explore like in BotW. I just have too much trouble with it.

  24. I admit focusing on navigation and stuff makes me not fully take in any game world. I noticed that with Horizon Zero Dawn. But, who do u think we are? professional gamers? We have jobs and kids and only an hour every night. We need way markers.

  25. In Wither 3 a little treasure hunt like this, a scrap of paper with a poem at a mountain peak and a treasure hidden at a place the peak cast a shadow at a particular time of day as hinted at by the poem. Favorite quest in the game, never acknowledged by a popup nor map clue, just a scrap of paper on the ground and work the rest out yourself.

  26. You should play kingdom come: deliverance on hardcore mode
    No markers on the map
    No compass
    No health bar
    No stamina bar
    And the game is designed to be played like that

  27. I realized this thing on my own a good while ago
    And in responce I started figuring out ways around it
    Like for Skyrim. I ended up finding mods that allow you toodify the ui so that you can't see quest markers just by glancing up. Forcing you to open up the map. See where you are and where you have to go. And plan a course. Perhaps changing that course if you run into an unexpected suprise

  28. I agree with almost everything, but I gotta say: Goddess Cubes are a shitty waste of time. Delaying gratification while making us play a tricky section or having engage our brains to piece together clues is fine. But the Goddess cubes just withhold your reward until you can be bothered to go back to the sky world, and fly around for 15 minutes sweeping up the half a dozen goddess cube chests you unlocked since your last sweep. You won't even know, nor care, which cube opened which chest.

    And that sky world has exactly the problem you describe here: There is fuck all reason to explore all the tiny islands. Just go to the ones the map tell you have an unlocked goddess cube chest, and ignore all the others until the map tells you there's something to do.

  29. now I know why I didn't really like the witcher 3 in spite of the praises. I liked the game but somehow I felt empty playing the game by following the UI.

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