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Old 05-18-2011, 03:09 PM   #13
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Re: Rate this 'article': Video Game Maps (i)

Demon's Souls

People are still creating video game maps, though I suspect this is only so they can be included in strategy guides. With the prevalence of in-game maps, most games donít need to be mapped out in detail. But as a deep and intricate game, which can be played through differently many times, Demonís Souls benefits from this treatment. The full suite of maps is here, but the map of Level 1-1, the Boletarian Palace is shown below:

Demonís Souls is typified by its excellent level design, which makes great use of verticality to turn twisting passages and switchbacking staircases into a coherent game world. Having spent hours inching through the Boletarian Palace, for example, I was surprised to turn a corner and see my starting area a few hundred yards away, albeit a hundred feet below. The internal geography of the levels is great, and is wholly consistent.

For anyone who has played Demonís Souls and is looking at the map above, the first question that springs to mind is Why? After all, due to the unforgiving nature of the game, every player has probably been through each of these levels a couple of dozen times, and is likely familiar with every nook and cranny. So why create a map? Why document the game so minutely?

The obvious answer is that the gameís depth lends itself to mapping. The ability to play a New Game+ each time you finish the game, together with many secondary objectives such as weapon collecting and upgrading, means that a quick-reference map for loot and material drops is extremely useful. It is very useful to know exactly where that moonstone-dropping Crystal Lizard is situated, or where you can get your hands on a Cling Ring.

Itís difficult to imagine these maps being useful on a first playthough, as their abstract nature means that they can only really be understood once the player is already familiar with the level. So here we have an example of game maps where the purpose is to provide a guide to the game world, but only once the player has completed one playthough. This, like the game itself, is pretty hardcore. Essentially these maps are functional in the extreme, in that they are a guide to where stuff is, rather than aides to helping the player navigate the game world.

That said, I donít mean to detract from the achievement that these maps represent. The mapping effort here is phenomenal; each level is broken out with great economy, and the detail (every enemy represented!) is amazing. The maps reinforce the beauty of the level design Ė make a level that fits in a small space, but which gives the impression of a huge world, and which is internally consistent.

Alternative map of a small section of the Palace showing vertical level design

Itís interesting to compare another map on that site, Level 5-2, the Leechmonger Archstone, to another user-created map. Look at this and compare to this map of the same level:

The first map is extremely professional, but I have to say the second one has a lot of charm. The player enters the level at the bottom right, and has to make his way around three sides of the map to get to the boss at the top right.

And the great thing about it is that everything important is there. We have the giant goblins (arenít they great?), the slugs, the jellyfish, the bloatflies, the unique pickups, and the various NPCs. Thereís even a little lever for dropping the drawbridge shortcut on the right hand side. Though it doesnít detail every single item or drop, itís extremely useful navigation aide to a level which is dark and open and confusing. This is a charming and brilliant user-created map, and though it will never be included in a strategy guide, it makes me happy that it exists.
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