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A mini-map is a miniature map that is often placed at a screen corner in computer games and video games to aid players in orienting themselves within the game world. They are often only a small portion of the screen and thus must be selective in what details they display. Elements usually included on Mini-maps vary by video game genre; however, commonly included features are the player's character, surrounding terrain, allied units or structures, enemies, and important locations or items. Mini-maps have become very common in the real-time strategy and MMORPG video game genres because they serve as an indication of where the current screen lies within the scope of the game world. Most first person shooter games also have some version or variant of the mini map, often showing enemies in real time.
In most games, the mini-map begins as a solid field of black, and the map is automatically drawn as the player discovers new areas of the game world.
Fog of War
After players discover new areas, the terrain of the discovered area often remains visible on the mini-map. If the player's characters or units cease being able to see the area though, this area is often covered by a fog of war. What this means is that unit or structure movements in that area will not be shown on the mini-map. Things in a fog of war portion of a mini-map may not be updated until they are rediscovered.
Similar to custom layers in Google Earth, some team-oriented multi-player games, such as Age of Empires II or Empire Earth, allow players to draw temporary lines, signals or markings on the mini-map for others to see. This allows for quick communication over large distances in games.
In video games, an automap is a navigational aid used mainly for virtual worlds that are expansive or maze-like. An automap is typically an abstract top-down view of nearby areas of the game world, automatically updated as the player character gains knowledge of the environment. Automaps often display traversable terrain, allies, enemies, and important locations or items.
Early automaps typically found in role-playing video games were pause screens that stopped gameplay when opened. When the feature became popular with action-oriented games such as Doom and Diablo, the automap feature in these games did not pause the game and allowed the player to continue gameplay while the map was on screen. Early examples of video games to feature a real-time automap include Namco's Rally-X in 1980, Gebelli Software's Horizon V in 1982, and Arsys Software's WiBArm in 1986.
Automapping was a particularly desirable feature in dungeon crawls, which typically featured a dungeon with many levels for players to explore. Before automapping, players were expected to draw maps by hand as they played the game, so they could navigate through the dungeon levels later. For this reason, game boxes for early 1980s Wizardry games, for example, included graph paper.