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Wayfinding in Procedural Environments

Last time, when we talked about improvements in a procedural environment, I briefly mentioned the topics of wayfinding and mini-maps. Such things are critically important when designing a world that takes on a life of its own. Your design doesn't always work the way you expect it to, and the in-game world ends up being unique in ways you could have never imagined. So how exactly do you make sure that the player knows where they are going?


Well, this topic falls under the purview of Game UX, a field that focuses on optimizing the general user experience for the players of any given game. Now, I've served as a Game UX Advisor for project pulse, as it's my specialty in the Game Development field. Typically Game UX is a full time job, and taking I've been focused on tech and design reworks, there's no feasible way I can be a full time Game UX Designer for Project Pulse.


But, I sure can discuss how we might improve the general experience of the user. In the case of wayfinding in a top-down, pseudo-isometric environment, we have to take a few things into consideration. The player's camera is limited to one angle of rotation, thus disallowing them to explore the environment as quickly as a player in and FPS, for example. This means we could potentially give the player more ways to wayfind internally. By this I mean providing more HUD elements and tools that aren't inside of the environment, but actually within the player character.


Such things like mini-maps, maps, dynamic pathfinding elements, or even arrows on the HUD can help a great deal. Once we've established some sort of internal wayfinding system, the player should be able to find their way around slightly easier, allowing us to then provide more wayfinding methods in the environment around them, such as more markers or landmarks. Luckily in our case, our world is also organized in a block-based format, which is quite useful as the player travels with pseudo-grid-based navigation.


- Alexander "Hawkins" Croom


Players with a simple mission arrow indicator