Written in 2019
Lots of people love exploring in RPGs, but only some love drawing maps next to their gaming dutys. Usually, console games are played on the sofa or any other comfortable piece of furniture in the living room, so it's quite hard to have pen and paper ready to draw the maps of the dungeons the game presents to the players.
Also, in more modern games, missions are many and often complex, so that the games need to offer at least a bit of service so that players don't get lost. Well at least as long as the games don't try to be mean to its players.
Here are some examples how modern and old games handle maps if they actually have some sort of automapping feature.
This is perhaps the oldest game that will ever get some coverage here on rpg-o-mania. It's even older than myself! This is a vintage RPG that even spawned its own set of subgenre, the "Rogue-like" games. In Rogue-likes, the player traverses a huge maze while searching for treasure and killing monsters. If characters die, players can restart the game with the descendant of the former hero or heroine.
The game was developed as a game that can be easily understood and played in breaks. The original game was developed at the university of Berkeley in California, the version shown in the screenshot here is the DOS version by Epyx in 1983.
Dungeons are created randomly, and in order to help the players find out where they are, the map is slowly revealed as they explore the various layers of the maze. So this is one of the earliest examples of a in game map that slowly reveals itself - a feature that even lots of modern RPGs still utilize.
The Etrian Odyssey games are a popular series of dungeon crawling RPGs that started their life on the Nintendo DS in 2006. The games are presented in a first person view with a huge focus on exploring the dungeons and areas in the game.
Battles are fought in a turn based system which is fairly basic, althought characters can be heavily skilled and customized, which gives the game a lot of depth. Also, one of the main aspects of the game is dungeon and world exploring.
The game offers an interesting mixture of automapping and drawing maps on your own. The game itself draws maps as players progress, but it's just a different color in a map grid. The outlines, borders and other noteworthy things have to be added by the players via pen to the lower half of the screen, which is the map.
Etrian Odyssey was a pretty popular series on the Nintendo DS and 3DS, other platforms are yet to come as of May 2019.
Skyrim is most probably the blueprint of a modern western RPG. It offers a semi action battle system, it has extensive missions but a not too strong main storyline, a really big world to explore and sometimes massively big dungeons.
In Skyrim, maps are created automatically by the game. The overworld map is available from the start, but it will add new places upon discovery by the player. Dungeons, however are expanded just as the players go through them bit by bit.
Quest markers in dungeons are always displayed, even if that part of a dungeon has not been revealed yet - but still, players know the overall direction they have to go to. Additionally, there is a convenient compass on the upper screen of the game itself. It's just as comfortable as it could get and tries to help players in not getting lost - quite the contrary to the games in the "no maps" section of this report.
Did I just write that Skyrim is as comfortable as it could get? Well, Xenoblade X just took the whole idea of mapping a step further. This game was released on the Nintendo WiiU, a game console that came bundled with a controller that included quite the large display.
Xenoblade X is a complex game. Not only is it a fairly tough game with lots of difficult monsters roaming around the land, it also has lots of missions that involve interaction with the land itself - the range of possibilities goes form building up a resource farming network over finding rare monsters to special scenes that can only be seen when certain characters meet in certain points at certain times.
The absolutely comprehensive map helps players to manage all this. The map is always visible on the tablet screen (as long as players don't play in tablet mode) and it can show either a grid of the land with information about the most important landmarks, it can show the structure of the land or it can display the efficiency of resource mining. Players can tap icons on the map to fast travel or check out their next objective. And of course, in addition to this map a little mini-map is always shown on the TV screen.
The map of this game is almost insanely informative.