Culture

Meet the cartographer mapping the size of your favorite video game

How Big Is The Map? answers a very basic question: How big is the map?

Culture

Culture

Meet the cartographer mapping the size of your favorite video game

How Big Is The Map? answers a very basic question: How big is the map?

As video game technology has progressed, the games have gotten much, much bigger. Once upon a time, The Legend of Zelda’s Link could traverse the world of Hyrule in a few minutes; now, walking the country end-to-end could take the player well over an hour. This is mostly exciting, for players hoping for a detailed world they’ll spend hours exploring, as they watch a spacious map slowly fill up with icons and placemarks. It can also be a little bit exhausting, if a game doesn’t justify its size with thoughtful design and world-building.

Peter, who asked The Outline to withhold his last name, started “How Big Is The Map?” when he realized nobody else was answering this very basic question: How big is the map? In each of his more than 450 videos, which vary from under 10 minutes to three hours, he chooses a game and travels from one end of the map to the other to give his viewers an idea of how large the field of gameplay is.

There’s a service element to his channel, for fans looking to get a specific idea about the map, but it sort of works as an ASMR experience. Imagine a “Let’s Play” video, but with none of the exhilaration of watching someone actually play the game. Instead, you experience the sights, the sounds, and most of all the world, taking it all in as a type of documentary. (Peter occasionally talks, but the videos are largely silent.) To get an idea of why he does this, we spoke with Peter over e-mail.

What made you start making videos?

I started this channel because when I was wondering if I should buy a certain open world game or not. I was always searching for videos that could show me what the game world looked like and how big the game world was. I couldn’t find it. All I found were the usual walkthroughs: videos of people playing all the missions, and showing all the cutscenes. I only wanted to know the atmosphere in the game world.

Because I couldn’t find those videos I thought it would be necessary to start to make these videos myself. Videos where you can see how big the map is just by looking at the length of the video. Videos where you can see, hear and feel what the atmosphere is in the game world.

Why do you keep doing it?

I love to walk across maps because it’s very relaxing. It’s like yoga. It can be very peaceful when you see a big landscape in front of you, when you walk along houses with people talking to each other early in the morning, walk through big valleys and dark forests or walking across high mountains with snow on a sunny day. It’s just like walking through nature in reality.

When you play a game the normal way most of the time you are in a hurry, running from A to B, trying to complete missions and trying to kill enemies. You forget to give attention to the graphics, the game design, the game art and all the effort the game developers put in the game. It’s lovely.

From the How Big is the Map episode on Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

From the How Big is the Map episode on Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

How does it feel when something stops you and makes you have to start over?

The moment something goes wrong when I’m almost there is the moment I start hating this hobby. When the PC crashes or an enemy kills me or I fall from a high mountain, I get very angry, especially when a map is very big — then I have to do it all over. It feels like I just threw away a couple of hours of my life. But I guess I’m lucky because it almost never goes wrong. So I continue making these peaceful journeys.

What kinds of responses do you get from viewers?

The response of my viewers is very positive and also is a reason to continue. They’re very grateful that I’m making these videos so they don’t have to make them. Who wants to walk across the entire map of The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall to find out how big the map is? Not many people, I guess. Some people like to watch the channel to find out what open world game they missed and still have to play. Others like to watch and listen just to relax or to fall asleep at night. Most people are just curious about the map size and the graphics.

What’s your favorite map for a game?

The most beautiful maps I walked across are Assassin’s Creed Origins, The Witcher 3, The Saboteur, Elex, Mafia 3, Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Kingdom Come: Deliverance. But every game map has its charms. When you walk across these maps it feels like you’re really walking there. In Assassin’s Creed Origins you get the feeling like you are in a hot Egypt centuries ago, in The Saboteur you feel like you’re in France in WWII, in Ghost Recon Wildlands you get the feeling that you are really in a tropical Bolivia, and in Kingdom Come: Deliverance you think you’re really in Czech Republic in the year 1403.

From the How Big is the Map episode on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

From the How Big is the Map episode on Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

What makes a good map versus a bad map?

A good map is a map with a lot of variation like GTA V, Saints Row 2, Mafia 2, Mafia 3 or Watch Dogs 2. You can see a lot of things happening. When I walk across these maps I want to look at everything and I want to step into every direction or want to enter every house I see.

When I walk across a map with only some ugly trees or nothing but brown ground then I get bored. Those are the bad maps.

Have you ever gotten any feedback from game creators?

Daniel Vávra, former of Warhorse Studios (Kingdom Come: Deliverance) posted my video on Twitter. I think he’s the only game creator who’s aware of the existence of “How Big is the Map?”

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