Game Design Spotlight #24: How The Obscured World Map In Guild Wars 2 Begs You To Explore Its Corners

Seek adventure, come across conflict, and choose your path.

Anthony Jones
By Anthony Jones, News Editor
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Welcome to the 24th installment of the Game Design Spotlight! This column is your weekly dose of my analysis of game design elements across many multiplayer titles, such as Foxhole's immersive MMO experience and SOLO's Picture Style feature bringing new life to its stunning vistas and in-game models.

Last week, I discussed Path of Exile's "Ruthless" mode and explained how it manages to be the perfect experience for a casual audience. Today, I want to focus on Guild Wars 2 and how the obscured world map begs players to explore its corners by dangling unknown experiences on the horizon.

Developer ArenaNet describes Guild Wars 2's open world as one that should "encourage casual group play and cooperation between players." Jumping between their slew of "dynamic events," where you could fight off bandits raiding a farm or clear a pathway of traps down a well-traveled trade route, dishes out experience and prizes while managing to pull together the player base for a central goal.

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Much of the design of the open world creates a seamless transition between activities and keeps players roving without missing a beat. Yet, a significant facet of this chemical reaction begins with the obscurity of the world map.

From your early moments after the character creation screen, discovery becomes a focal point of your journey as you unveil parts of the map. Doing so will reveal points of interest, renown hearts to accomplish NPC objectives, vistas in high places, waypoints to teleport at your leisure, and more.

Nothing about these events is groundbreaking for the MMORPG genre; however, the allure of striking out in whatever direction you choose is one Guild Wars 2 fundamentally nails, persuading players to embark into unknown lands for a chance at adventure and to score loot.

A Cycle Of Activities

But game elements aside, Guild Wars 2 has a subtle bewitching aesthetic baked into zones. Activities will be the main reason that inspires you to go in a particular direction, but it's also the cave sitting off the beaten path and the oddly-placed cemetery up in the distant hills.

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These specks on the world map often see some action through story-based instances, but naturally, they'll make you wonder what might be over there. That's because Guild Wars 2 has coiled you around its cycling rewards system, a sort of player psychology entrapment if you will, where there's a healthy bond between the player and the game when any exploring is involved.

With its eclectic systems flowering players with XP, an inherent expectation between the player and the game builds over time: Embarking out into obscured lands is satisfying due to rewards, and you're advancing at your pace through the game.

This anticipation convinces players to constantly look for their next activity or cross unfamiliar landscapes on the world map, more so than following any threads of narrative that provide exposure to Tyria.

Breathing At Every Second

Like plenty of its competitors, Guild Wars 2 is seeking to capture the scale of an enormous world, but unlike others, its method of fleshing out the world begins when players are motivated to wander.

"Follow the Action," one of ArenaNet's design dogmas for the game, enriches the impact of players choosing to explore in whatever way. Through dynamic events, Tyria comes to life as the many crossroads of the world map feature unexpected challenges and stories characterizing the area.

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Overhearing conversation at a nearby outpost you stopped to rest at can lead to defending someone from monsters, and tailing suspicious characters could reveal hidden treasure.

Some events are naturally grander than others, but each plays a part in breathing a newfound vitality throughout Tyria. At every second, something is happening somewhere. That, coupled with a concealed world map, practically begs players to roam the open world.

It's very much an old-school foundation that players have seen time and time again in multiplayer and single-player games. But with all of the colliding factors making up the world of Guild Wars 2, that overworld design doesn't go out of style and has an infectious eagerness to nudge players over hills, mountains, and valleys.

That concludes another week of the Game Design Spotlight! How do you feel about Guild Wars 2's world design? Does ArenaNet's decision to mask the world map mystify the world enough to make you explore it? Let us know below! Also, feel free to comment on games you would like me to cover for future stories if you have any suggestions!

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About the Author

Anthony Jones
Anthony Jones, News Editor
Anthony Jones is a gaming journalist and late 90s kid in love with retro games and the evolution of modern gaming. He started at Mega Visions as a news reporter covering the latest announcements, rumors, and fan-made projects. FFXIV has his heart in the MMORPGs scene, but he's always excited to analyze and lose hours to ambitious and ambiguous MMOs that gamers follow.

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