The Great Debate: Should quest markers be included in open world games?

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Xdeser2

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Poll The Great Debate: Should quest markers be included in open world games? (365 votes)

Yes: Quest markers should be included in every open world game. 75%
No: Quest narkers should not be included in open world games 10%
Partial Yes: Quest markers should be included in open world action games, but not RPGs 15%

So, every time someone brings up the Elder Scrolls or Fallout series in the forums of pretty much any gaming site, one of the first debates to show up is around the inclusion of Quest markers, how they're either awful because they ruin immersion and level design, or they're great because they allow accessibility in exploration and avoid tedium in quest design.

I'm going to keep my opinion out of this (if you really care enough you can find it in my post history) but I'm genuinely curious what he majority of people actually think on this issue, as I've seen it go both ways on many different sites.

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Quantris

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I think they should be included, but I'd prefer them to be optional (and perhaps even default to off). Good games don't need them to be playable. However different people enjoy games in different ways and it's apparent that some people like having the direction that quest markers provide.

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Zeik

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#2  Edited By Zeik

Yes, they should be there, but optional. I'm not always in the mood to physically track down every quest, especially if it's a pretty mundane side-quest that gains nothing by aimless wandering. There are times turning them off can benefit the experience, but there are plenty of times where it's simply more obnoxious than immersive.

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duke_of_the_bump

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#3  Edited By duke_of_the_bump

They have their place. If I want to play something that doesn't require me to think too much, I'll play a Fallout or Borderlands or Saint's Row, something grindy with clearly delineated goals where I can just gun down people and collect loot while zoning out or listening to a podcast or something.

But I'd never want quest markers in, say, Dark Souls or Zelda or Shadow of the Colossus, anything where exploration and puzzle-solving and atmosphere are the whole point.

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LawGamer

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For right now, having them optional is probably the best option. That said, going forward I would hope that devs would get better at designing quests and environments to the point that gigantic, obnoxious arrows saying "GO HERE!!!" isn't needed.

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Dixavd

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#5  Edited By Dixavd

People who don't like quest markers are lunatics. Nevertheless, games should just have an option to turn them off like hints in adventure games.

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Captain_Insano

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See: Shenmue Endurance Run

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BrainScratch

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They should be included but they also should be handled better than they are on Elder Scrolls and Fallout.

If there isn't quest markers, then they have to come up with a really good way of guiding the player, otherwise it would be ridiculous.

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Ryuku_Ryosake

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Yes especially in games like the Elder Scrolls and Fallout. You would have to break immersion one way or another to convey this information and quest markers the the most streamlined and modern method.

The change from no quest markers to quest marker came paired with a very important new immersion feature in both games and that was full voice acting.

The reason the old system worked in Morrowind (forgetting the old Fallouts which were not open world games) was because you could ask just about any npc about a quest to get information. Each npc pulled from the same dialogue libraries and since the lines weren't voiced that worked.

Otherwise to do the same in a fully voice game is that it would exponentially increase the amount of voice work required and also lead to an even greater spread of the same voice lines between npcs which would break all the immersion voicing them brings.

Also not having then tends to do some annoying and immersion breaking behaviors. You do dumb things like reading dialogue logs and shifting through menus and reading quest journals. Stopping the gameplay to menu through text is not really anymore immersive than being able to continue the action but having a small piece of UI that gives the same info.

If you are very concerned about losing the act of looking around an environment to pixel hunt for stuff. You could always do one of those arrive at the area and show the circle over the area you need to look. Those are literally no difference in experience than having an npc say look in the purple house in the west side of town for the knife.

TL;DR Both methods break immersion in their own ways. I much prefer the one that allows devs to employ modern features all other genres have and values your time and gameplay experience.

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whitegreyblack

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#9  Edited By whitegreyblack

I don't mind quest markers, when there are lots of neat hidden or incidental hings to find in, around, and between those markers. I really like finding little areas that suggest a person's presence a world outside of the crafted linear storyline.

edit: More choice is better, in my opinion. I liked how a game like Thief (2014) had all the assists available but made them all optional if you wanted them turned off.

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Giantstalker

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Make them optional and off by default.

Or better yet, give the people who choose not to use them some kind of additional reward or something.

Basically provide some kind of incentive to actually explore the world and find shit, without absolutely forcing clueless people to do it.

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Justin258

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#11 Justin258  Online

I do not want to have to accidentally stumble upon a certain tiny trinket in a certain out of the way cave on the other side of the world for some sidequest that's going to give me nothing more than pocket change and a pat on the back.

That said, there has to be a better solution than Bethesda's "go to quest marker, kill thing/gather item". Better level design and clear, but also immersive direction could help a whole hell of a lot.

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ds9143

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YES, but give us the option to turn them OFF.

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_Zombie_

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Optional, for the gamers that don't want them. My ass gets lost too often to not use quest markers.

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ajamafalous

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Why is the answer not just "make them able to be toggled at will"

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deactivated-5f9398c1300c7

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It depends. If the game doesn't do a good job or doesn't even try giving you directions (aka Skyrim), then you may as well have them. But I think the best open world games are ones that handcraft their environments and geography minutely and intelligently, enough to familiarize yourself with the land and know what is where, and where is what. Games in the past did this incredibly well like Deux Ex, Morrowind and Zelda but now they just don't give a shit since they can just add a quest marker on a minimap and call it quits.

Christ, these games give you a goddamn compass to know where West, East, North and South is for no reason. It's just your eye balls looking at a corner of a screen and holding UP or W until you reach the end of a GPS. Developers need to make maps that tell you the name of streets, lands, towns, and states like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Risen, because these games are just becoming dumber and more boring by the year.

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OurSin_360

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I say yes but i dont think they need to be in every open world game and should be optional. The thing i dont like much is the path finder, i think to often it makes things too linear and easy to find. Shadow warrior 2 does this in every mission which i understand why its needed but its a bit much as it just becomes follow the path.

Kingdoms of amular did this too and the game was just follow path and hit button or fight dudes. I think some exploration should still be there even with a quest marker.

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damodar

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#17  Edited By damodar

The problem I have with games like Skyrim etc isn't that they have quest markers, it's that you can't really avoid using them. I don't see any good reason they couldn't have made that game in such a way that it had quest markers for people who wanted a more accessible experience, but then also had enough writing, maybe additional quest info in a diary or something, to say the person you are after is in the two story building on the west bank of the river, two houses down from blacksmith etc.

So yeah, another in the optional camp.

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veektarius

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Are we being fair to Skyrim? Most map markers do not appear until A) You are near something or B) You talk to an NPC who tells you about it. This seems like the ideal system. Maybe you could change it so that A only occurs if your character literally lays eyes on the location, and I'd be in favor of that.

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LeStephan

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Just give me a far cry 2 map and Im happy.

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PillClinton

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I love RPGs as much as the next guy, but honestly, I can hardly stomach all the tedious dialogue and exposition these days, even in games praised for their writing, like Witcher 3. At a certain point, I just go, "shut up and let me play the damn game." These days, I come to games for gameplay, that escape of getting deep into mechanics, not story. That's what books and movies are for as far as I'm concerned. I want to sit down and play, not have an hour of lore shoved down my throat. (This is why after planning on getting Fallout 4 for quite a while, I ended up skipping it, because it seemed like the gameplay just wasn't there, but there was tons of dialogue and "story".) As a result, I hardly have the patience anymore to parse out a character's riddled dialogue, then compare it to landmarks in the world to deduce where I may or may not need to go. Just give me a waypoint, please.

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Evilsbane

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I don't know, I'm torn, I miss the natural exploration of say Morrowind but understand the frustration of vague directions and getting lost and wasting time in a game. Accounting for both playstyles presents a challenge as well, turning off points ala Skyrim means finding your objective can be difficult since they don't really give you good enough directions to figure out your own way.

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deactivated-5c295850623f7

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I feel like quest markers are an easy out for poor level designs so in a perfect world where every game can rest on it's design I'd say they're not required.

Unfortunately we don't live in a perfect world so I guess they're fine? Though it's honestly the main reason why I don't enjoy open world games. They often become games of mindlessly following the marker rather than being immersed in the world.

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Kharnivore2099

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I cast my vote as a yes. I think they should be in every open world game, but there should be an option to turn them on in the options. This would set the precedent that you are meant to find the objective by yourself, but the option to make it easier and more straightforward is there for those that want a more streamlined experience.

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Hayt

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I miss getting directions from npcs. Some of the npcs in Morrowind even gave mistaken directions which I loved but can see why they don't do it anymore. I always toggle it off but as mentioned a lot of the time quest logs aren't good enough anymore. Deus Ex HD has a good system where you can turn off on screen pointers but leave the marker on the map screen.

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berniesbc

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I've been playing some Skyrim the past few weeks and I can't imagine running around these huge buildings hoping to stumble across some dumb wizard who might be in any of ten places. I get why not having them on might be more immersive, but Skyrim would be near unplayable for me without them.

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RonGalaxy

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There's probably a better way to do it, but I'd say something is better than nothing. It really depends on the game.

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selbie

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A well designed map will provide good wayfinding so that you don't need a marker to know where you are going. Systems that make you engage with the game world such as finding clues or asking NPCs for info are a good compromise so you can feel like you are doing something productive. A marker only showing up when you are in range of the location is preferred so at least if I am near the site I won't miss it.

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slyspider

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A few years ago I would have said no, now however if a game requires me to spend 4 hours exploring for a single quest I simply don't have the time to do all that work. It should be an option at least

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mandude

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As a permanent fixture at the top of the screen? No.

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DharmaBum

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Just give me a far cry 2 map and Im happy.

I like this guy.

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mach_go_go_go

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Make them optional.

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Arabes

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#32  Edited By Arabes

@mach_go_go_go: making them optional isn't the answer because the quest log rarely tells you where to find the objective. Something like Skyrim needs to give you directions when you accept the questions (like they did in Morrowind) so you can find the bloody thing. I usually turn pathing off now but leave the location marked but I would love the option to be just given directions and a map and have the find the place myself. Following a bread crumb trail is just so mindless.

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Kazona

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Optional is the only real answer in my opinion. You could argue that designing a better, more organic, open world would negate the need for quest markers but I think you're asking the impossible at that point. Maybe an alternative way of indicating a quest location? I honestly don't know how, though. And having people wandering around a giant open world blindly until they run into a quest will probably get frustrating quickly. It's fun if you just want to explore on your own but if you're looking to move forward in a story having to run around a giant map until you find something is not what I'd call fun.

So, yeah, I'd vote for making them optional. Even better, give users the option to turn them on and off at will. Feel like just roaming around and seeing what you come across? Turn quest markers off and go on your merry way. Want to get a (side-)quest done quickly? Turn them back on and head straight for the end goal.

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mellotronrules

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#34  Edited By mellotronrules

give players a blank paper map (just continental or region borders) or design an app that lets you mark or print your own map. that would encourage collaboration, which would be empirically dope.

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cmblasko

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#35  Edited By cmblasko

It depends. Part of the fun of Morrowind was needing to actually pay attention to directions given to you by NPCs. But I would bet that the majority of people strongly prefer quest/destination markers in all cases.

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deactivated-5ba16609964d9

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Yeah I get the immersion of having to follow directions from an NPC but I just don't have the time anymore to wander aimlessly. That's pretty sad on my part/

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ArtisanBreads

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It depends. Less obnoxious is better, but also there's room for something like "hey it's in this area" and you have to track down the guy/specific location/etc in said area. Also depends on the game. So too complicated for me to vote.

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deactivated-5fe944c2b23b6

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The novelty of relying on in-game ques wears off after a few hours. At some point you will want to sit down and get things done.

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Supernatural_Space_Honky

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I'm partial to this. Speaking of Morrowind, there is a part of either a Hortator or Nerevarine or Ashlander quest (can't remember which one) that sends you into the Ashlands to look for 1 tiny cave, I remember on the UESP it was a pain in the ass to find, most people would walk right by, unless you had Prima's strategy guide map. Or any of the weird ass named caves that could have used some kind of marker to cope with the nomenclature. Am I going to Ashinabi or Ashurnibibi or Abinabi for my unmarked quest?

On the other hand, let's talk Fallout 4. Where no matter where you are in game, your compass icon will point directly to exactly where you need to be. Pick a direction and keep moving stupid.

I'd like to see NPC's give direction and a marker show up when you're in some kind of radius/in visual distance to your waypoint.

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Jesus_Phish

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#40  Edited By Jesus_Phish

Allow them to be toggled on or off. Leave it up to the player if they want to try navigate the world themselves or follow an arrow for help.

@supernatural_space_honky - I remember there being a quest you got in Morrowind from the Balmora Mages guild. They wanted you to visit some guy in a cave and gave you directions to get there. The directions weren't good and it turns out that they took you to a cross roads and past the cave because the entrance to the cave was now behind you. You wouldn't find it until you turned back around to retrace your steps. However, I love Morrowind for that kind of stuff because it made it feel more real, that the NPC gave me the directions to the best of their memory.

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GiantLizardKing

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Some games are better with them, some games are better without them. It is a design choice that the game must be designed around.

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Sterling

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I'm a fan of the general area markers. Like a big highlighted area of a map. But then having to find the correct location inside the area myself.

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Nethlem

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Really depends on the game. But generally, I'd like to have at least the option of narrowing down the position of an objective, instead of spending half an hour looking for something of which I often don't even know what it looks like, so I run past it 15 times and end up feeling like a complete idiot after having had to look it up online.
So it being "optional" is pretty much my answer, there's even room to turn it into a feature like a hint system: If you find the objective without additional hints you get more/better rewards, with each additional "hint" you request the "extra reward" scales down a bit. Kinda like being on a treasure hunt and having to ask NPCs for additional clues, the NPCs might demand a cut from the treasure for their help in locating it. The "evil version" of that would allow the player to spend resources on gathering more "hints" up to a point where the end reward will be less than all the resources spent on actually finding it.

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GStats

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Just too much of a nightmare without them. Imagine running round Novigrad in Witcher 3 trying to find an individual person based on written directions. It would just slow the whole game down so much.

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an_ancient

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@gstats said:

Just too much of a nightmare without them. Imagine running round Novigrad in Witcher 3 trying to find an individual person based on written directions. It would just slow the whole game down so much.

Oh man I'd love doing that!

I think the real question is, do most open world games need quest markers? I would say yes. But in general, no. Two games that did it right for me was Morrowind and Outcast.

Morrowind had excellent written directions though funnily enough it was up to you to ask. You could end up backtracking to the quest giver to ask them where it was.

Outcast was for me ahead of it's time since NPCs would point or describe the locations or other NPCs. It was more clunky but man was it immersive.

I think people need to feel examples like these in order to appreciate it. A combination of that in a modern game would be godlike. I don't think it's necessary, but I do think that devs who try that, did a lot more for their world building than just make it look cool or copy paste some topographical real life data.

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GStats

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@an_ancient:

Not if you were a completionist you wouldn't. How many times do you need to do that in Novigrad throughout the whole game? About 1000 times?

It might be ok if it were just 5 different quests but that time adds up.

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an_ancient

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@gstats: I've not personally played the latest entry in that series, but I think it can work if there is a framework and justification.

I am currently looking at both maps and Witcher 3 is larger and the cities are more windey, and Morrowind seems simpler.

http://www.uesp.net/maps/mwmap/mwmap.shtml

http://witcher3map.com/v/#4/73.10/-11.38/m=83.530,-9.400

But also if the Witcher maps has only points of interest like the link and not individual houses you can go into, I can sort of see how it becomes a maze instead of a city. Maybe it's also to do with first person vs third in open world. With third you have to do more to look over your character and it's more difficult to read signs that would be easy if you were looking at the world through Geralt's eyes.

As I said, I don't think all maps are suited for that, but if you go into making a city navigable without that it will inform that level quite a bit. Time constraints being what they are you would end up with smaller towns and spend more money on voice acting, still I think it'd be worth it.

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Arjailer

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#48  Edited By Arjailer

Keep reading stuff like "pick a direction and keep moving stupid" and "dumbly follow an arrow".

If you play like that and find it boring, isn't that on you?

I can't imagine not having quest markers, but I don't follow them dumbly. I'll start off heading in their general direction, but often get sidetracked investigating cool areas I find along the way, sometimes abandoning the original quest for many hours before finally getting back to it.

If you "dumbly follow an arrow" that's your fault not the game's.

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paulmako

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No-one has mentioned Metal Gear Solid V yet.

An open world game in which quest markers were so useful, you could upgrade your equipment to add more.

You could even go as far as saying the core mechanic of tagging enemies in that game is adding 'quest markers'.

I recently played Dishonored, a linear game with open level based environments, and it had objective markers.

I think both Dishonoured and MGSV have fantastic level design and gameplay. Quest markers do not automatically ruin level or mission design.

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rorie

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I don't mind quest markers on the overmap, but the addition of "you might want to check this out" markers on compasses really does kill the immersion for me in open-world games.