We Need Signposting For Regional Transitions


Recommended Posts

"Signposting" is a general game design term for making sure a player knows what's up in an environment. Ideal signposting is usually seen in Naughty Dog games or Half Life 2, where their level designers pull all these fancy lighting tricks and architectural techniques to get people to behave in specific ways, then go to GDC and flex about it for several hours. (there's the classic example of bars. When you enter a bar, you ideally want the bar to begin vertically adjacent to the door entrance, because that lowers the distance, literally and mentally, between the bartender and the potential customer. If you place the bar at the end of the room far from the door, it's a less effective marketing strategy)

I'm not suggesting Hinterland need to run these kind of 400 IQ analyses on every single interior they've made, though. My issue is more that if a player begins completely blind, and doesn't look at community map sources... Do we REALLY expect them to find every Region on their own?


An example of good signposting in an environment in TLD is probably Mystery Lake. It has 4 regional transitions, two of which are on both sides of a railway which is an intuitive thing to follow, and one of which is through Carter Hydro Dam which is one of the most unique and obvious buildings in the game. It has one cave transition to Mountain Town, which is reasonably close to the notable Trapper's Cabin and is also introduced to players early on in WINTERMUTE. Pretty good!

But, Hinterland also have an unfortunate "just put a cave somewhere" syndrome when it comes to them needing an environmental transition, such as Forlorn Muskeg to Bleak Inlet. Mystery Lake has "follow the railroad" and Coastal Highway has "follow the highway" which are more interesting ways to encourage players to find the regional transitions than just dumping a cave somewhere.


A couple of potential ideas to solve this:

  1. Having lines on the World Map that indicate which zones transition to what. This wouldn't fully solve the problem on its own, but would help mitigate it, as players would at least know that there's a transition to another area and vaguely where to look. The game does already have the intuitive system of simply having transitions between zones that are adjacent to each other, but would you really guess by looking at the World Map that, for example, Bleak Inlet connects to Forlorn Muskeg, but not Coastal Highway? Would you really be able to figure out that Pleasant Valley connects to Coastal Highway? (Note: One might complain about being "spoiled", but which zones transition to where is already listed in the game's region spawn options)
  2. Add some kind of new asset to distinguish region transition caves. (and perhaps other region transitions) Maybe something as simple as red cloth flapping in the wind, maybe just something more subtle like literal signs.
  3. Add notes in the environment that talk about regional transitions and where they are. For example, Hushed River Valley's cave is pretty out of the way and it's supposed to be part of the completely untouched wilderness, but you could easily have a Note in Mountain Town talking about this well-hidden hiking trail. This can even hint towards features new players might not know about, such as a survivor corpse in a common zone like Pleasant Valley or Mystery Lake that notes they used to work at the Bleak Inlet cannery and know there's machinery there that could be used for manufacturing ammunition. A body in Pleasant Valley might note that they saw a plane crash on Timberwolf Mountain and it looked sizeable enough to be carrying cargo, but that they know Timberwolf Mountain is dangerous. Every Region should have at least one of these hooks IMO, ideally 2-3, to encourage them to visit other Regions.


Any more concepts/ideas, or feedback on these ones, would be appreciated!

Edited by Lexilogo
  • Upvote 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1} If the player is doing their charcoal mapping, the transitions come up clearly labeled as double arrows saying "to..."

2) The game uses a lot of natural markers to "intuitively draw the player towards caves and other pathways and shelter points... the rosehips, reshi's, old man's beard along with trees that literally look like arrows pointing towards points of interest.

I would argue that the signposting through the Carter dam is possibly one of the worst in the game.  When you come from the Mystery Lake side, you must first find the door to the lower dam (which isn't very obvious) then in going through the lower dam, you pass the point where you exit to the Winding River side of the dam and can loot another couple of rooms that ultimately dead end... then you have to backtrack and again find a rather obscure door to exit the dam to the Winding River side... a door that locks behind you and then you have to figure out to shimmy across the dam itself to eventually climb in a broken window to get back to Mystery Lake.  There is nothing inside the dam that telegraphs in any way that all of that is needed to transition to the Winding River zone (which is itself merely as transition zone).

  • Upvote 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like some of the blending and immersion in your idea. Definitely the corpse messages, the red cloth -as someone who came before you. 

I had this struggle when I was brand new to the game, and refused to search the internet for a community map so as to not spoil the experience.

The sign-post ideas would have definitely made it a bit more clear at the game’s intro, but as you gain experience you learn how to identify possible entry locations.

As noted if you are drawing your charcoal map then it is rather apparent. However I can’t say that I would go around marking every corner of the map, especially early game. But that’s just me personally. 

I’m not a fan of the concept of lines on the world map. But that too is personal preference. 

Overall I appreciate the immersion and think the basis of your idea would assist new players and help them to visit other locations, but also make the game a bit easier for them; which I’m not overly a fan of. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've given the thread time to breath, now I'll weigh in on it.

Personally, I like the game-world that Hinterland has crafted.  I think the game is better served the way they've made it.  I think it's better for the player to explore rather than having what I would consider to be large and obvious hand-holding measures.  Raph mentioned from the start that this was a game that was "not going to hold the player's hand."  That was one of the foundational concepts that inspired the game.

To be fair, this game does already have more subtle ways to indicate to the player that a possible area of interest is nearby... once we learn to pay more attention to our surroundings they become kind of obvious, and I really respect Hinterland for how they chose to incorporate those "guiding clues."

I'd say that this game was all about the need to pay attention to our surroundings and the importance of careful & deliberate actions.  I would much prefer that to the idea's that have been suggested in this thread.

Also, I think that the markings on the Charcoal Map are more than sufficient, and that this map (combined with all the environmental features we have at our disposal) are more than enough to orient ourselves in the environment very effectively.  Even as I first explored the new region I was able to orient, explore, and learn the entire expanse of Ash Canyon with only what's available in the game right now.  So, bearing that in mind... I just don't see a need to change these things.  Therefore, I'm not in favor of this idea.

**Note for all those who apparently can't tolerate other people's opinions...
I'm not going to argue with people about it.  I am stating my opinion because I have a right to.  I don't care if folks don't like my opinion, I am still expressing it.  If certain people don't care for my opinion, feel free to ignore it... because I'm not going to be drawn into more of those people's hostilities; only for them to then try and blame me for their poor conduct in the face of a differing opinion.  :)


Edited by ManicManiac
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that using well defined transition between regions makes no sense in every situations. It was not expected (in terms of the island infrastructure) to anybody wander some of that areas, after all. Some routes may be too obvious (follow the railroad, follow the road), but others not so. Then, i see that Hinterland took a lot of care on balancing this explore/follow the trail aspect.

And sorry @ManicManiac but no, this charcoal map is not even close to be sufficient. It is a crappy inconsistent and inaccurate try, that serves most to disorient the player. Not all players are experienced navigators as u are, and look, i think i have a good direction sense, and yet i get caught walking in circles sometimes when i use map orientation.

 If the game designer was intended to let us guide through visual references and not carthography, or to let for us the overall subjective map interpretation, so let us include/exclude marks on the map from anywhere (not spray) to register at least some passable/not-passable terrain, that are most important than some POI. But this is for another thread, i guess.

Anyways, the regional transitions are too well resolved, in my opinion. The world map arrangement is a clue itself in most of cases.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Old Hermit

I can appreciate that's how you personally feel about it...
I was just simply stating my opinion and speaking for myself (and the experiences I've had with the game relative to navigating though the game world - and how I feel about it).

I think that part of the challenge of the game is learning how to navigate Great Bear Island.
I am of the opinion that large obvious signs and marks strewn across the landscape would undermine and kind of ruin the experience for me.
I love this game even more when we get a brand new region to explore and get lost in.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now