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What open world games can learn from the Breath of the Wild HUD

Breath of the Wild’s minimalist HUD and map prove that less is more when it comes to discovery, exploration, and player immersion in open-world games.

Open-world games are all the rage, boasting great maps to explore, secrets to uncover, and tons of side quests set in a beautiful world. Some deliver while others are big and empty, but the two categories often have the same pitfalls, which takes away the exploration and the overall fun. Obstruction of the Heads Up-Display minimap has an impact on the immersion and the way a game is played than most realize. It’s a simple thing that can shatter how exploratory a game really is, and there’s no evidence that less is more quite like. Breath of the wild.

Breath of the wild the minimap and the overall HUD are relatively simplistic. It mainly showed topography and maybe stables or towers if the player was nearby. Even the main map was largely bare, not showing hundreds of icons for where you walked around or where the player needed to go. It’s never bossy or distracting, and more open-world games need to take this approach. It allows players to focus more on exploring than just unlocking point-to-point locations and travel.

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Getting the map and minimap with icons stuck in an open world game partially destroys the exploration aspect. Instead of thinking outside the box or checking out something in the distance like in BotW, this makes players more likely to point to an icon as it’s something to hang on to directionally. While many great open world games like The Witcher 3 and Horizon Zero Dawn Don’t have too many to start with, it’s easy to find them without too much exploration as an icon will just appear some distance away. In the case of The Witcher 3, even just talking with NPCs can trigger icons to appear on the map. Suddenly, players are moving from icon to icon to uncover the secrets of the world instead of finding them organically.

It can also cause a break in the immersion of a game. Not only does it hamper exploration, but it can cause players to not pay as much attention to what is going on. Instead of looking at the world and its surroundings, players may find themselves paying more attention to the HUD and proximity to the next location. It pulls players out of the game, and it becomes more about where the next point is and how close the character is. In the case of games like The Witcher 3 and Cyberpunk 2077, it’s even worse; players should just follow the dotted line instead of following the path ahead.

The current solution that most developers have implemented to combat this is to simply disable the HUD or some aspect of it. However, that doesn’t combat the real issue and can instead make games a bit more difficult if the visual cues aren’t obvious enough. Instead, they should take a page of BotW and remove most of the icons and leave the card marking in the hands of the player. Letting players set their own points and score points of interest encourages better exploration of open worlds and overall immersion. It would also have the addition Zelda effect of creating discussions about secrets and new discoveries over a longer period of time. It’s a much better way to go and it would make open worlds exciting again.

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