The Wonder of Game World Maps
Everyone is born with a sense of wonder.
Children naturally ask questions about the world as they are growing up, why is the sky blue, what is the moon made of, how big is the ocean. Learning something new, something novel, feels good to us. It’s what propels the baby to push a ball, the explorer to sail the ocean, the astronaut to go to Mars.
Games are fun because they tap into this sense of wonder. Creating an interesting game world creates new questions to ask and new mysteries to understand.
And a big part of this mystery is the game world map, the overview of the world you’re playing in.
I played many games as a kid where you could navigate in one kind of game world map, but then you would play the core game in another screen. The maps I’m talking about aren’t seamless “open worlds” like Elder Scrolls or Grand Theft Auto. While those have their place, my favorite game world maps are a layer of abstraction, a village icon represents a larger level of a village, etc.
Because of this abstraction, imagination runs wild. A tiny little tile is all it takes to send your mind spinning: “What’s THAT? Is it some kind of weird labyrinth? A magic forest? What is it and how do I get there..?” It made it feel like the game was bigger than it actually was.
A level select was one of the most requested features in the original Sky Garden prototype, so it was a given that something will be included in the commercial release. But I wanted to go beyond the boring grid of 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 levels. Instead I wanted to capture some of the magic that accompanied my favorite game maps in other games.
Here are some of my favorite game world maps: