Land of the Lost

compass rose

"I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks." -- Daniel Boone

Go north of Junk City and take the Volcanic Path to the Sage's Tower. That's what Yuki said. Then all the others in the group rephrased and repeated it to me just to make sure I got it. Everyone in the game thinks the main character is a bit dim. And maybe I am, but all this repetition doesn't solve my problem. It isn't that I don't know what to do. It's not that I don't know where I need to go to do it. It's that I don't know how to get there.

You give me a cardinal direction, and I am likely to be eaten by a Grue. Or maybe I'll feed you to it. To me, "north" is one of those mythical things like "free time" and "sleep."

It's not just that it's hilariously funny to your passengers or anyone you ask for directions. It is so embarrassing, and sometimes it's infuriating. My kids like to say that Mom knows her way around. And around and around and around. I can laugh along with everyone when I take one wrong turn. It's not so funny when it takes me hours to find my way somewhere.

I don't even have to leave the house; I can do it at home for free. All I have to do is plug in some of my favorite games and I can have that oh-so-familiar sinking feeling. And I'm not the only one--imagine the fate of the poor guy riding along with me in a game of Rocket Race. Having to struggle with navigation can be a horrible handicap.

The usual first suggestion people make (once they stop laughing at me) is to say I should get myself one of those GPS units. I have tried them, but they're not quite the cure-all you might think. The usual trip goes something like this.

The GPS navigator pipes up like the bridge computer on the Enterprise and says, "Turn north on 168th Ave NE after .3 miles."

I think, "I'll get right on that, Majel." Wait. Maybe not. The "N" is pointing off the side of an overpass. And exactly how many blocks is .3 miles!?

Thankfully the GPS unit designers took people like me who navigate by landmarks into account and tried to help. The green arrow in the middle of the little street on the screen shoots off to the left at a cross-street. The verbal directions may be in Sanskrit but I can interpret the arrow as "hang a left at the next intersection," so we don't drive off the overpass, and we end up where we're going most of the time.

I get lost in games, too.

The type of game doesn't matter. I've been lost in every kind of world. The Library level in Halo, Section B in Doom 3, the Desert of the Knaaren in Rayman 3--I've wandered back and forth across them all, searching for the spot marked X to do my next task. It doesn't even take a three dimensional game. I've gotten lost in 2d side-scrollers. Do you remember the Rupture Farms packing plant area at the beginning of Abe's Oddysey? I find my way eventually, but after a while I imagine even the game characters are wondering if I'm taking my directions from Moses.

It's all in how your brain works. Some people need to navigate by landmarks, and some people do fine with orienteering. Landmark navigation is the process of using physical objects to make decisions about your course. And it's not just women drivers. Free-moving robots and many other animals use this method of navigation. Orienteering uses abstract directional indicators like compass readings and coordinate systems. Technology like the humble compass and the up-to-the-minute GPS are often used here, but people can possess an innate awareness of cardinal position or "sense" of direction like homing pigeons do.

There's been a lot of thinking about this in both the real world and in games.

It's not a black-or-white situation. Most of us cope in our own way or at least accept the other methodology. There should be no stigma either way. It's not a learned behavior, and it has nothing to do with intelligence. Good game navigation could do more to take both viewpoints into account.

Here's a few things that tend to trip me up:

    Mini-maps and radar screens are much less helpful when they rotate with both your character's movements and the camera's.
    There's no frame of reference to the world at all. I guess you really are the center of the universe. Sometimes they help you by trying to include a cardinal direction indicator, like a letter "N" that is supposed to tell you which direction is north and imply the rest of the compass rose. Except when you take an "N" and rotate it, it looks the same both up and down. I'll wait a second while you write it on something and try it out for yourself. The sides are fine; even I figured out there's no direction "Z."

    Tiny or ambiguous directional arrows and markings make the map more difficult to interpret.
    The differences between standard and Hi-Def video equipment bring this into even sharper relief. Sometimes we do have a little squiggly thing pointed at what I'm hoping is the bottom of the letter "N" that's careening around the rim of the map area. But I can't tell for sure which end is pointy because it's so small.

    The position isn't making things any clearer. Is it on top of the N and pointing away from it, or on the bottom of the N pointing at it? Or maybe it's just an ornament on the letter itself? If it's on the bottom then north is straight through a mountain. If I have to fight my way back around it again I'm going to be seriously torqued off. If it's on top north is back out into the trackless desert. I've already played Lawrence of Arabia here twice now. I really don't want to do that again either.

    Games that throw you into a "battle realm" to fight add their own trials to the tribulations.
    I ended up with some seriously over-built characters playing Final Fantasy X the first time because I kept getting turned around climbing up Mt. Gagazet. It wasn't just a question of going straight up the trail: Because of the way the path crossed over the gorge, for a little while there "forward" was actually "down" the mountain. To make it more confusing, the spot where the camera would move to the next area was right in the middle of this section of the path.

    So you march Tidus' little leather-clad butt along the path, and run into a spawn point. This sends you off into the battle world. You kill the big bad Bombs, and get sent back to the overworld. But you come back facing the other direction, and you hit the area border again. Then the game area would re-render, heading you back the wrong way. Before you know it, you're trapped in an endless loop of killing those three Bombs and being sent back to the overworld right in front of the Bomb's spawn point. One step and then Boom! Here we go again. By the time I figured it out and broke the cycle by taking that first step in the other direction, I wanted to scream.

    Maybe it's not déjà vu--maybe it's the fact that all these twisty little passages look alike.
    Cookie-cutter level design can be a killer. Especially if combined with any one of these other issues. After you've humped that mini-gun through your 20th featureless concrete hallway, you begin to wonder where you've seen this place before. I know it seems obvious, but if the areas are lacking in unique features then a landmark navigator won't be able to see any landmarks they can use. Number it, paint it green, put a fancy hat on it. I don't care. Just do something to distinguish it from the rest.

    Mechanics aside, the map isn't much help if the place you're told to go isn't displayed on it.
    Designers like to hide the map due to a discovery limitation like fog of war. Or in games with large worlds, the destination can be outside the scale of the displayed area. It goes like this: I'm told I have to go north to Mt. Bur-Omisace. Simple, right? Unfortunately, it requires slogging through three other areas which also have their names obscured, each with multiple exits and no pointers as to how they're positioned relative to one another. I've got no other guidance but that cardinal direction as to the path. In downtown Seattle I can find signs that tell me how to get onto I-5 to get to Portland or Vancouver, BC. It seemed dumb to me until I had to think about starting a trip to Portland and I had to figure out how to get on the highway. A couple long-view roadsigns to give us a bigger picture or maybe a grumpy NPC to insult my intelligence with a couple concrete clues wouldn't go amiss.

    And don't even get me started about maps that are just plain wrong.
    Take, for example, The Metro in Fallout 3. When you're outside in the street the Pip Boy information doesn't necessarily match the names on the posted maps inside the area itself--you don't want to know how much that screwed me up until I read that article. I thought I was taking crazy pills. I know that a nuclear weapon rearranging the place and several hundred years of rusting doesn't help, and that designers use these mechanics to encourage exploration and add to difficulty. But it's just plain cruel when you add the rest of the issues on top of it. I already feel stupid enough, thank you.

    Time-limited tasks that require pinpoint accuracy of navigation are definitely not a strong-suit.
    The last level of Metal Gear Solid, where you had to drive away from the nuclear blast through that series of tunnels and not get lost was a nightmare. So was trying to navigate that Warthog through the Pillar of Autumn's dying hulk at the end of Halo. It's not just speed-runs. I had to give up and ask a kid to help me navigate that part in Metal Gear Solid 4 where you have to follow that whistling guy through the city. I'd get lost in the city, and then loose track of the whistle you're supposed to chase him by. Frack! Shamble my way back to the station and try to pick him up again, with Otacon making snarky comments in my ear.

RPG's with big worlds are my Achilles' heel because they tend to combine all of these problems into a heady mix. They're one of my favorite types of games, too. While I never intend to grind the game like I was going to use it's bones to bake my bread, there's always some cookie-cutter locale combined with story points that have their locations obscured on the map and next thing I know I'll be trudging along aimlessly like the Wandering Jew.

One weekend I spent four flippin' hours in Final Fantasy XII, trying to find my way through the abandoned oil rigs infested with tomatoes in pajamas and the Tusken Raiders on stilts. The area is a series of ring-shaped walkways connected by bridges at irregular intervals with a drifting desert as the background. No reference points to work from at all. Good news is I found the entrances to two secret areas I wasn't supposed to find yet. Bad news is I ended up dragging myself all the way around every single ring in the entire Sandsea before I uncovered enough of the map to see where I was supposed to go. By the time I got to my destination I was swimming in license points and the giant flying appetite that tried to eat my party at the door of the tomb wasn't that big of a problem.

In case you were wondering, even with the notes I took I got lost again trying to find those two hidden areas later for sacking.

I don't have any easy answers. A couple things here and there that worked better for me. For all the thrashing around I did in Fable 2, thanks to that trail of golden sparkles I at least had a reasonable assumption as to the basic direction I should be going. It reminds me of everyone's least favorite fairy, Navi. It doesn't help when the scale of the story quest doesn't match the scale of the available map information, but you can at least follow what you can see. I could still navigate MGS4 by keeping the map north/south manually. And outside of The Metro I was deeply grateful to Pip Boy.

In the real world, one of these days some bright boy is going to find a way to marry Google Maps with the Yellow Pages and build a website that can help people with driving directions like "Hang a left at the 7-11 on 40th and 172nd" rather than the current offerings of "Drive .3 miles north on 168th."

That wouldn't do me much good in this game, though. I'm still standing at the head of the bridge outside the door labeled "North Gate," right outside Junk City, and I have to get to the Sage's Tower. So, do I take a left at the giant bug-thingy? Or a right?

I can't exactly ask the bug.

Comments

Fascinating article...

Do you remember the Rupture Farms packing plant area at the beginning of Abe's Oddysey? I find my way eventually, but after a while I imagine even the game characters are wondering if I'm taking my directions from Moses.

Huh huh huh.

Amen, sister!

Move to Colorado! We use the mountains for beauty and as a navigational aid/crutch!

I created an account on this site after lurking for many years just so I could say, "Nice article".

Great job!

I drew up a map of the entire complex of Saboteur on the C64 on a massive sheet of graph paper...

Didn't help me much.

At least it's not just my fiance that has this problem. She gets trapped in dungeons in Legend of Zelda all the time. This is an epidemic!

I could have written this. Well, no, I couldn't have, but I could have rambled out all the same thoughts in a disjointed way.

Latest pain: Getting digested over and over in Gears Of War II.

beeporama wrote:

Latest pain: Getting digested over and over in Gears Of War II.

Run towards the light!

I like games that let you leave your own 'trails' through a map. As in, "Oh, I already smashed all these boxes... clearly I've been here before."

Usually getting lost is a failure of game design. Half-Life has no minimap, so they use visual cues to tell you where to go next. I figure that unless it is freeform, it's part of the job of the level designers to create levels that represent well on a minimap.

The Fallout 3 objective indicator always pointed you towards the correct exit from the area towards your objective, so navigating through the metro was never an issue for me.

When objectives are put onto a minimap, the better ones tell you whether the objective is above or below you. I think that GTA4 did this. The only game I can remember getting really lost in was Overlord, which badly needed a proper minimap. It appears that they've added one for Overlord II, but that it is not very useful.

I don't really understand your criticism of games where the minimap rotates with the camera but has an N telling you where North is. If the N is at the top of the minimap, you are facing north, and if the N is at the bottom of the minimap, you're facing south. I don't see the ambiguity. Did you have problems with Space shooters like Elite, Wing Commander or X-Wing? They all had very different 2D representations of the 3D sphere around your craft, which is a difficult general problem. I recall finding Elite the most useful of the three. It had other craft as blobs connected to stalks on your horizontal yaw plane.

Actually Fallout 3 is a game I really enjoyed getting lost in, since when you do you almost always stumble across something interesting that you would have completely missed otherwise (I'm on play-through number 3 and I'm still finding new places I haven't seen before).

Hell, I even liked getting lost in Morrowind

Something like the library level in Halo....not so much. Since it was basically the same 3 rooms copy-pasted again and again. The number of times i ended up going BACKWARDS through that level after getting turned around in a firefight was ridiculous.

It appears that they've added one for Overlord II, but that it is not very useful.

There's a full-screen map as well on the quest/status screen thingy which is VERY handy. No real interface delay in pulling it up either (like Red Faction for example which has a couple of seconds for the map to generate itself).

Very interesting, momgamer. I'd love to have a lengthy discussion with you on the topic. I'm sure there would be a research paper worth of material in there. One thing that sticks out to me though: you say that you're terrible with abstract directions, but good with concrete landmark navigation. Yet you want your instructions in terms of left and right. Something that a significant portion of the population has severe problems with, since it's so abstract.

I wonder if there are some neat exercises one can do to raise their spacial awareness skills.

Rotating with the camera vs. rotating the player marker is the old user-interface question about whether to rotate the markings against a fixed selector, or rotate the selector against fixed markings. There's probably some article about it somewhere, which I'm sure game designers ignore completely. Same goes for camera/player controls; are your inputs relative to the player, or relative to the environment? What happens when I push the controller to the left?

Camera woes aside, my main navigation complaint has to do with 3-D and altitude. I'll be dutifully heading towards the oh-so-conveniently placed map marker only to discover that my objective is on the bridge above me. Great.

So, what's really the problem here? In most games, I would suggest that it's a problem with lazy level design and reusing similar architecture. I'm all for non-linear levels and multiple paths through a map, but something is clearly wrong with the map layout if I discover that I've been turned around for the last 10 minutes without even realizing it.

- Alan

Hahahah, getting lost in games and in real life is so true! That's why I hate driving destinations I've never been to before.

For a second there, I thought my wife was writing this article. For some reason, the compass confuses her, too. On the phone, I'd say "go north on Hall road" and she'd get mad, "Which way is that? Do I go right or left?!" "Well, that depends on whether you're traveling East or West!" lol.

While the breadcrumb trail in Fable 2 ensured that I always knew the way to my next objective, it also completley destroyed any chance of me learning my way around Albion. It became a crutch that I relied on, and along with fast-travel, made the gameworld feel like a series of disconnected rooms that I'd teleport between, rather than a coherent single place.

Fallout 3, on the other hand, for all it's navigational difficulty, feels far more like a real location to me, predominantly because you learn your way around by bumbling trial and error.

Now I think about it, that's pretty much how I find my way around new places in meatspace - by getting lost.

Cassius: I see you remember the place.

Poor Old Lu: Amen!

InspectorFowler: I live in Seattle and I used to live in Anchorage. Mountains are my friends. As is that giant fir tree halfway between Bel-Red and 8th Avenue. It can be helpful, but it's only really effective when someone gives me a direction that lines up the objective relative between it and my current position and we're working in large scale. Saying "the Cascades" are east and using that to go by doesn't help so much when they cover half the horizon and I'm trying to get five blocks. It works well in tandem with other techniques.

nocashvalue: Welcome! And yes, doing your own paper maps can be extremely helpful. I've been doing it since my old pen-and-paper days. Or in the case of adventure games that require various conditions to get from place to place, I'll flowchart the areas and take a lot of notes. It depends on the game.

misterglass: Zelda is another can of worms. That bloody water temple in Twilight Princess....grrr..... It's a hard one. I think the whole issue is a huge drawback to game entry. If you take this problem, then add unfamiliarity with the controller and all the other issues it's a wonder to me that we get any new gamers at all sometimes.

beeporama: I hear you. I've been digested by so many things so many times it's a wonder I can get it all that gook out of my hair in between game sessions.

clementstation: I navigate by broken crate and blood-splatter all the time. Those games with lots of cleanup can be really annoying.

dudley: The objective indicator in Fallout 3 does help, as long as you're close and there's no backtracking/dead end stuff in between you and your exit. The issue I have with rotating mini-maps is that in some of them it is not clear whether the N indicator is at the top or at the bottom. If you don't know that, then all the other relative directions you take from it are in question. As far as space sims, in Wing Commander, it's actually not that important which direction you're going in the large scale once the mission is started. It's knowing where the enemy is relative to you that's key to survival. The HUD system in the Broadsword is awesome for local spatial awareness.

stevenmack: I've found all sorts of interesting stuff this way myself. Ususally it's a monster I'm not nearly levelled enough to master, though. The list of stuff I've been eaten by before my time is long and illustrious. This issue is a good feature if you're a completionist, though. Especially in big RPG's that build fiddly little things in that are designed to be found on subsequent passes through the same area.

Itsatrap: Yeah, there's a lot of stuff up on Gamasutra and up on the APA website. I could have written an article about every point I made in here, I think. Which would have bored everyone to tears. It also brings in the whole "inverted" vs. regular control schema issue as well. Elevation is a whole 'nother ballgame - The Z axis in 3d realms is a problem both in games and in regular maps.

Moondragon: I wear a ring on my left hand so as to be able to tell the difference reliably. This and my many other compensation strategies could fill a whole 'nother article. Left and right in the immediate concrete space are probably as close to abstract as I can get without a lot of technology.

Jonman: I don't get to go far without getting lost, so it's also one of my tactics. I often avoid using fast travel techniques just so I can keep myself oriented in the game-space. Games where you can't do that because you're forced into an overworld map between areas, like Lost Odyssey, make it more difficult.

momgamer wrote:

InspectorFowler: I live in Seattle and I used to live in Anchorage. Mountains are my friends. As is that giant fir tree halfway between Bel-Red and 8th Avenue. It can be helpful, but it's only really effective when someone gives me a direction that lines up the objective relative between it and my current position and we're working in large scale. Saying "the Cascades" are east and using that to go by doesn't help so much when they cover half the horizon and I'm trying to get five blocks. It works well in tandem with other techniques.

...

misterglass: Zelda is another can of worms. That bloody water temple in Twilight Princess....grrr..... It's a hard one. I think the whole issue is a huge drawback to game entry. If you take this problem, then add unfamiliarity with the controller and all the other issues it's a wonder to me that we get any new gamers at all sometimes.

If the Cascades are "east" and fill half the horizon, then I'd wager that half of the horizon is the eastern half. I only joke about this because mountains are strange and fascinating things I only get to see on vacation.

But don't get me started on the Water Temple. You probably saw me grumbling about that enough on Twitter for the past month. I'm pretty sure the credits were the best part of that game.

When I started at a program at UC Berkeley, the guide told us all that we should get lost on campus because it enables us to discover new things about the place, and get to know it properly, rather than just shuttling from class to the BART station. Getting lost is almost a synonym for adventuring.

That's what this article made me think.

VDOWhoNeedsDD wrote:

When I started at a program at UC Berkeley, the guide told us all that we should get lost on campus because it enables us to discover new things about the place, and get to know it properly, rather than just shuttling from class to the BART station. Getting lost is almost a synonym for adventuring.

That's what this article made me think.

Your post made me think about the old line, "All those who wander are not lost."

For some people that's a good idea. For me, they're two separate activities. Casting around just to discover new things is very different than the disorientation of really not knowing where you are or how to get where you need to go.

momgamer wrote:
VDOWhoNeedsDD wrote:

When I started at a program at UC Berkeley, the guide told us all that we should get lost on campus because it enables us to discover new things about the place, and get to know it properly, rather than just shuttling from class to the BART station. Getting lost is almost a synonym for adventuring.

That's what this article made me think.

Your post made me think about the old line, "All those who wander are not lost."

For some people that's a good idea. For me, they're two separate activities. Casting around just to discover new things is very different than the disorientation of really not knowing where you are or how to get where you need to go.

Yeah, and I just remembered what happened on the first day of the program - I had class from 8:30 to 12 and then I had to get to work at 1.
I got lost.
That was not adventuring, that was almost-getting-fired-ing for being twenty minutes late...

Thanks for writing this - it's nice to know that someone has the same experiences I do in games.

Can you give an example of a game where it's not clear if the N is at the top or the bottom of the minimap? I'm not sure I've ever come across one.

This reminds me of the comment by the Popcap guy when he was on the podcast that a huge proportion of the market can't deal with 3D in a game in any way, shape or form. Maybe there's another problem here that so many games are designed by and for men with pretty good spatial reasoning, they are doing themselves out of a lot of sales. If you want to get to a specific place, getting lost isn't particularly fun for most people, it's a frustration, and it really would be worth their time to give better landmarks, better navigational tools, visual cues, less confusing environments and so on to get rid of it.

Red Faction's HUD-type GPS has been excellent, it's like the GTA4 GPS but superimposed as chevrons on the roads in the player POV, not the minimap, so you don't have to keep flicking back to the minimap as your flying down a hill at 100mph just as a 90-degree turn is approaching. I wonder if they designed it before or after Fable 2 did it, or announced the idea?

You would have "loved" one old school Gremlin Interactive game - Litil Divil. It actually came with a stack of graph paper to make your own map of the labyrinth you traveled through.

And the layout of corridors changed every time you started a new game.
And they add a time limit on 4th level in form of a Grim Reaper stalking you through the corridors.

Aw man, i wish there were more games that made it a challenge to map out on paper...used to love drawing maps for stuff like the Dungeon Master or Eye of the Beholder games and such.

I even tried mapping the dungeons from Morrowind, which was something of a challenge what with the whole 3D thing

Great article!!

I navigate by landmarks too. I have no idea which way east is, but I know I've seen that rock/house/flower bed before. I used to try to navigate by landmarks like Starbucks, but that's a sure-fire way to get even more lost in Vancouver.

Video games without maps that cater specifically to my lack of direction frustrate me because I always get lost. I just finished Oblivion and I never, I mean NEVER, go the right way even after checking the map. I've put over 160 hours into that game and I still can't get my brain to comprehend directions.

It's great to know I'm not the only one. I feel less stupid now.

Glad I'm not the only ditz who gets crazy lost in games....I vividly remember that same sequence in FFX *shudder*

Seattle is good for the whole mountains/water directional sense, if you're near or in sight of one of those. I'm usually on foot when walking around the city, so this thought process happens a lot: "Is the rode sloping almost vertically one way or the other?" Up= away from the water/downtown = east.

A plus side of the game thing is the inevitable overpowered RPG party during the boss fight

DudleySmith wrote:

Can you give an example of a game where it's not clear if the N is at the top or the bottom of the minimap? I'm not sure I've ever come across one.

Enchanted Arms for the 360 would be the poster-child for that particular comment, and the opening and closing paragraphs of the article. I do have component in and out, but it's an SD tv.

DudleySmith wrote:

This reminds me of the comment by the Popcap guy when he was on the podcast that a huge proportion of the market can't deal with 3D in a game in any way, shape or form. Maybe there's another problem here that so many games are designed by and for men with pretty good spatial reasoning, they are doing themselves out of a lot of sales. If you want to get to a specific place, getting lost isn't particularly fun for most people, it's a frustration, and it really would be worth their time to give better landmarks, better navigational tools, visual cues, less confusing environments and so on to get rid of it.

I think it's a huge concern, but I think that Popcap guy is conflating several issues here. People having trouble with three-dimensional spatial awareness in a simulated environment is different than having a different base built-in navigational model. You can have both problems at the same time. I don't - I am a trained CAD operator and have no problem at all negotiating simulated 3d environments. My problem lies entirely in the lack of that homing pigeon sense and its simulated equivalent.

There are other issues that get dragged into this as well. You start dealing with hand-eye coordination, twitch reflex, muscle memory, and having a mental map to the control schema (the moral equivalent of touch typing only for controllers). All those things are stacked up to create the gamer's interface with the game. Issues in any one of them can have effects.

That last sentence there should be bolded for truth, though. If someone doesn't start thinking about these other experiences, games are always going to be marginalized to some degree.

I don't like the term "spatial reasoning", though. It implies that the problem can be thought through, or that those who aren't good at it are lacking intellect. Some of the smartest people I know can't find their way out of a phone booth.

DudleySmith wrote:

Red Faction's HUD-type GPS has been excellent, it's like the GTA4 GPS but superimposed as chevrons on the roads in the player POV, not the minimap, so you don't have to keep flicking back to the minimap as your flying down a hill at 100mph just as a 90-degree turn is approaching. I wonder if they designed it before or after Fable 2 did it, or announced the idea?

I don't know, but I doubt Fable2 was the model. A lot of games do stuff like that -- particularly car racing games. Project Gotham Racing has huge arrows on the track itself that point the player on their way. Rallisport has an in-car navigation system that plays a lot like a GPS. Heck, the flashes on the screen when you're playing Dragon's Lair back in the arcade days that hinted which way Dirk should jump could be considered a similar mechanic.

literarygamer wrote:

Glad I'm not the only ditz who gets crazy lost in games....I vividly remember that same sequence in FFX *shudder*

Seattle is good for the whole mountains/water directional sense, if you're near or in sight of one of those. I'm usually on foot when walking around the city, so this thought process happens a lot: "Is the rode sloping almost vertically one way or the other?" Up= away from the water/downtown = east.

A plus side of the game thing is the inevitable overpowered RPG party during the boss fight :D

I live on the east side, so I basically live in Sherwood Forest. No water or slope hints for me. And Don't even get me started about that big bony Seymour and the damned Guardian!

I've always heard problems of the "object A is to the north of object B, which is underneath object C and to the right of object D looking south, so what direction is object A from object D?" variety referred to as geometric or spatial reasoning problems, it wasn't meant to be a pejorative term. I've never had problems with that kind of thing myself, but I'm interested in what inferences we can make about the brain by studying how different people deal with it.

I do think the concept of doing the autorouting problem and showing you the route from wherever you are to an arbitrary destination point in a complex environment and then projecting that onto the landscape is different from a car game showing you the correct direction around the closed loop. I've dabbled in the AI in the past, and it's a difficult general problem, though games can put lots of helpers in their maps (like a set of navigation waypoints) to make it easier.

I do software for a company that makes navigation systems for small to medium sized leisure boats, so this is of professional interest to me.

Thank you for explaining. I am aware of that terminology, and it's industry usage. I see it in my user interface work, and it in scholastic circles as well. The problem comes in when the term is put up there with laymen who see "reasoning problem" and infer all sorts of interesting things from it.

Your work sounds fascinating. I can't imagine trying to do long distance navigation on a boat - to me that would be a featureless nightmare. I've done some stellar navigation in college when I did some project work at the University of Alaska's Poker Flats facility launching random-seeming stuff into the aurora borealis in the mid-80's but that's not the same thing as actually trying get somewhere. The skills to calculate a semi-ballistic rocket trajectory don't map out to being able to find the launch facility without really good directions.

I'm going to have to take a look at Red Faction, then, because I must be interpreting your description wrong. Particularly in the case with Rallisport, which is not a closed course by any stretch and has projected directional information as well as elevation info and hints on road condition on the car's windshield. It also verbally reinforces the hints with your sideseat navigator character.

It's just like the golden breadcrumb trail in Fable, only you can manually set the end point rather than having to choose a quest to get the trail up. It does only work on the roads though, they don't attempt to help you when the destination is off the beaten track, which is occasionally inconvenient (the mission where you have to go through the irradiated zone to get to a mission point in the Marauder village took me several goes because be lost is even less fun when lots of people are shooting at you. I ended up leaving their trail early and coming at it from the other side still in my dune buggy thingy).