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Overworld Not to Scale
aka: Traversible World Map
Despite appearances, Crono is not the size of a house.
A traversable representation of a Video Game's region at large, or 'overworld', slightly abstracted and depicted at a much smaller scale than the other areas of the game, so that the player can travel between distant areas faster than they could if it were all depicted "to scale". That distant town that's said to be 100 miles up yonder mountain range? You'll get there in just a few minutes of walking by map.

Largely an RPG trope, made famous by Eastern-style RPG's like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy where (especially in the days of tile-and-sprite based 2D graphics) the party character(s) were always rendered the same onscreen size, regardless of the overworld map's actual scale.

Like other areas in the game, the player is free to travel pretty much anywhere on this map they have access to, with Chokepoint Geography being the only (or at least primary) thing to prevent them from potential Sequence Breaking (no, you can't walk around that plot-important town to reach the mountain range behind it). Also like other areas of the game, expect to be ambushed by Random Encounters as you travel across it. For the sake of convenience, most of these maps ultimately 'wrap around' in all four directions; that is, if you can travel indefinitely in the same direction, you'll end up looping back to where you started.

Don't expect to find many scripted events or NPC's to interact with, or places to shop (or rest and heal) directly on the overworld map - this world map exists for Travelling at the Speed of Plot between point A and B, nothing more. So if you know you're about to embark on a long, cross-continent trip, better stock up (and save your game) before you leave town. On the other hand, many RPG's will allow you to save your game anywhere on this map, where you'd otherwise have to find a specific Save Point to do the job.

Note that despite its small scale, travelling between two very distant destinations can still take awhile (mostly due to aforementioned Random Encounters) - one of the reasons you can look forward to getting your hands on a Warp Whistle or Global Airship.

If the game reveals that there is a second world (dark or otherwise) or time period with its own map, see Alternate World Map.

Compare The Overworld proper which is more detailed and closer to scale, and Point-and-Click Map, which is abstracted even more, and you basically just click on the destination you wish to enter (and is a popular method in Western style RPG's), rather than being at liberty to wander around it freely. For even one more step in the abstract direction (popular with non-RPG games) to the point that the map is essentially cosmetic trimming, see "Risk"-Style Map.

Tangentially related to Units Not to Scale, which is more of a Strategy Game trope than RPG. See also Thriving Ghost Town.

Not to be confused with the Fantasy World Map often included in works of literature set in a Constructed World.

Examples

  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was a fairly straight example, in keeping with its RPG Elements: About the only purpose it served is to connect existing locations, with occasional wandering monsters to harass you.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks used a hybrid approach; you can freely sail pretty much anywhere the oceanwater (or train tracks) permit you, and there are a few things to keep you occupied (like shooting rocks or monsters) in the process, but these maps exist primarily to facilitate travel, and most actual gameplay interaction was inside each given destination.
  • Averted in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The ocean was depicted at the same scale as the islands occupying it, leading to long sequences of sailing across blue waves from point A to B with nothing but the occasional monster harassing you (or ocean storm) to break up the voyage with. The Wii U remake makes travel faster, though.
  • Dragon Quest is the Trope Maker, using some variation of it in almost every game to the series.
  • Averted with Dragon Quest VIII, whose world map is drawn to roughly the same scale as the areas inside it. You can still explore pretty much anything you can access on foot, and you do have a Warp Whistle (the "Zoom" spell) at your disposal from early in the game.
  • The Final Fantasy series has used one in most of its games, the first nine in particular. The aversions come from Final Fantasy X (and its sequel) which don't have one - your Global Airship travels by Point-and-Click Map. Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII don't have any either.
    • Final Fantasy XII is actually an extremely direct inversion of the trope. The game does have distinct world map areas, almost completely bereft of friendly NPCs and littered with monsters to keep you entertained. However, these are entirely to scale. One quickly comes to appreciate the numerous fast-travel options provided when the sidequesting begins in earnest.
  • Games like Breath of Fire and Chrono Trigger have the world map loop at the edges, giving the impression that what you see is the entire world (and shaped like a donut.)
  • Chrono Cross is set entirely on a single archipelago, so its map is limited to the archipelago, but it is freely explorable (and with no Random Encounters!) and there are a variety of destinations.
  • Skies of Arcadia had you literally fly around the overworld in whatever airship you had at the time. It was the only time you could save freely, the world itself was scaled down to fit, and it was actually notoriously bad about the high random encounter rate, which the Gamecube port fixed a bit.
  • The Tales Series, excepting Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World andTalesof Xillia, which use a Point-and-Click Map instead.
  • Golden Sun also features it: the first game only takes place on one-and-a-half continent with no other means of transportation than your feet, but the second lets you visit the entire flat world (apart from the parts available in the first): after a while, you gain a Cool Boat, then wings to put on your boat, then a Teleport Psynergy in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 got an overworld of this type in its second expansion Storm of Zehir. Random encounters and the party were modeled very much out of scale with the map and the locations, though at the start of an encounter the action would shift to a smaller map of correct scale.
  • The Lufia series uses this too.
  • Super Mario World uses this, and it gets a homage in both Scott Pilgrim and I Wanna Be The Guy Gaiden.
  • Games created with Unlimited Adventures can include "overland" levels, which is basically a big, static map with a white token representing the player party which can be moved around.
  • Quest 64 has what could be considered a world map, but it's built to the same scale as the rest of the game instead of being shrunken down (as in, say, Final Fantasy VII). Played straight in the Game Boy port Quest RPG, though.
  • In adventurer mode of Dwarf Fortress you can walk from one town to the next by walking in fully zoomed-in modenote , and it will take the same amount of in-game time as walking across the fully zoomed-out map, so in this case it really is nothing more than a convenience for the player (not just in saving in real-world time, but also in navigating across long distances). When near or in a town/city the "overworld" map has a zoom-factor between the two extremes, letting you see the overall layout of the town and letting you quickly move down long streets (though you still have to shift down to the to-PC-scale map to do anything but move).
    • Also different than normal is the fact that encounters aren't really random. The game keeps track of what populations of creatures live in what regions, and uses that information to determine what (if anything) ambushes you. And it keeps track of what you kill, so you can depopulate a local region of creatures (or even the whole world, if you put enough effort into it).
  • Implied in Pokémon, as Norman mentions that it takes him about 30 minutes to get from Petalburg to Littleroot. You can do it in a fraction of that, even if you take your time to fight some wild Pokemon along the way.

Level-Map DisplayMap TropesPoint-and-Click Map
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alternative title(s): Traversible World Map
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