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A mini-map or minimap is a miniature map that is often placed at a screen corner in 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 position of the player character, allied units or structures, enemies, objectives and surrounding terrain.
Mini-maps have become very common in real-time strategy and MMORPG video games 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 enemy locations in real time.
Many mini-maps make use of similar features. Common features are:
Fog of war
In many games using a mini-map, the mini-map begins completely blank, while the map is automatically drawn as the player discovers new areas of the game world. 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, the area might be covered by a fog of war, so that unit or structure movements in that area will not be shown. 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.
Rotation and zoom
In some 3D video games the mini-map rotates when the player character or game camera faces different directions, to keep the top of the map always corresponding to forward from the cameras point of view. This is common for games in the Grand Theft Auto series, and many racing games which show the track in a mini-map. Other games such as many in The Legend of Zelda series, the map does not rotate but features an arrow that moves about and rotates to show the position of the player character and the direction they're facing. In some games mini-maps that only show the close surrounding area often have icons on the edge to show the direction of locations or characters that are outside of the area shown on the map. Some games also have a feature where the mini-map zooms out when the player character is travelling at high speed, and zooms back in when they slow down.
An automap is a mini-map that is mainly used as a navigational aid 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 and it automatically updates 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. (Of note is that game boxes such as those for early 1980s Wizardry games, for example, included graph paper for this reason.)