Opinion: Why The Waypoint Marker Should Go Away

There’s a crutch in video games that developers rely on all too often. Whether it’s an open world masterpiece or the most linear of corridor shooters, chances are that you’re spending most of your time heading towards your objective, an objective that all these games have in common, the waypoint marker.

It’s almost an old friend at this point, always there to tell you which way to go in order to move the story along, or where you can find that little mini-game that you’ve been after. At the same time, I feel it’s like a friend who’s outstayed their welcome. Sure, it’s trying to be helpful, but does it really need to point out the bleeding obvious to me all the time? Can’t it just let me do my own thing every once in a while?

The problem is that waypoint markers and glowing highlighted objects are a crutch for developers to let you move forward and progress in a world that is unfamiliar and inherently unintuitive. You have to use one particular computer terminal in Call of Duty to hack the enemy communications, in a room and building complex filled with computers, or you have to go and find specific components in nearby areas and dungeons in order to help fix Captain Ironsides’ ship, the U.S.S. Constitution in Fallout 4. Some games are more overt than others, with many open world games restricting icons to your mini-map, while others will overlay the exact path on the floor for you.


But we’ve seen these waypoint markers find their way into our everyday lives as well, first with GPS devices in your car, and now built into every smartphone. Where you might once have taken an A-Z with you to find your way around London – I have fond memories of the first time I was trusted to be the map reader for my dad – or consulted the map on the wall of a Metro station while trying to get your bearings on holiday, now it’s as simple as opening up the maps app on your phone.

I’m as guilty of this as anyone else, and it’s just easier and more convenient to be able to have Siri interrupt whatever music it is I’m listening to in order to tell me to turn left in 40 yards. Sometimes it’s even a real world fetch quest, of sorts, but the difference is in the context, where I’ve had to look up where I’m going and figured out the best way of getting there. I most definitely don’t have a glowing yellow dot hanging in the sky either – though augmented reality tech might add that in the next decade or so, and AR does excuse highlights and markers in a futuristic setting.

But maybe my main complaint with waypoints isn’t so much that they exist, since being able to set a point and get the simplest directions there is certainly very useful, but that games take discoverability out of my hands too often. Climb to the top of a tower and use the vantage point in Assassin’s Creed games, and suddenly every little side mission and point of interest is highlighted for me on the map. Capture a town in Just Cause 3 and all of the challenges and mini-games are marked for me very clearly.


That’s part of why I’ve found Bloodborne to be so refreshing. There is no map for me to look at, and so I have to cautiously and tentatively step out into the world to learn things for myself. Any hints and tips that I do receive are from fellow players leaving messages on the floor for me to find, but they never sully my screen with any markers and distances, and they can even be stripped away by playing the game offline.

I want more games to take a leaf out of Bloodborne’s book, in this regard. Developers shouldn’t be so quick to lean on the crutch of dropping a waypoint into view, but could have their quest giver simply say that the town you need to reach is to the west of where you currently are, give you a compass and send you on your merry way. Of course, if you just want to be told exactly where to go, that should always be an option – genuinely getting lost is frustrating rather than fun – but a game should try to engage you as much as possible, and asking you to learn and truly explore the world for yourself will help to do that.


  1. Agreed, MGS might be a very different game without the mountain of helpful indicators, so it’s not a change to be seen on everything.

    The power of this generation of consoles should lead to more creative solutions

  2. No. No no no no no NO. And NO. If anything games – and ESPECIALLY INDIE GAMES – need more markers.

    For example, Rocketbirds. Fired it up this morning, platformed for a few minutes, found a button I couldn’t press. Unlocked another area with a crate I could move about. That’s it. Utterly stuck after five minutes. Rubbish. Deleted.

    Waypoint markers should stay, what needs to happen is developers need to make the journey from A to B more interesting. Make it so something catches your interest on the way and you stop off to look.

    • (there’s no limits before, etc etc hahahaha etc etc)

  3. I don’t think it should go away completely but maybe have the option to disable it, if that’s what you prefer.

    I never really thought of it being an issue to be honest.

    As for Bloodborne. As someone new to the genre, I felt an introduction to the rules of the world would have helped massively. Without that, it felt like someone sitting you down at a poker table and asking you to beat a world champion poker player first time, when you don’t have a clue how to play poker.

    I like a challenge but I also play games to have fun and Bloodborne wasn’t fun for me.

  4. I’d say they should be left alone. I don’t want to spend 10 minutes wandering in circles looking for a button to press so I can progress with the level. While I prefer more discrete markers that are just found in the HUD Map, I don’t mind floating ones provided they don’t look too ridiculous (like that top image!).

  5. It suits the Souls games because the different areas are distinctive and cautiously exploring is part of the game. However for the really big open world games it’s essential. Morrowind didn’t have one and it would take ages to find a cave based on the vague directions you’d be given.

  6. Us idiots need markers otherwise the games never get finished. And as I’m getting older, they need to be BIGGER to offset my shite eyes.
    Dead Space had the best waypoint markers, actually, Dead space did everything perfect.

  7. I like minimal hud and on screen data, but handy hints like in Naughty Dog games, or waypoints on demand (button press to show briefly) are fine and less immersion breaking than googling to find a solution.

    To be fair it depends on how open the game is. A linear game can get away without them, but it’s somewhat of a necessity for open world games.

    • Just to add, the main reason I gave up playing The Witcher 3 after just 3 hours was because of the vagueness of the objective I had been given. Explore ‘huge several square mile area’ to progress main quest, or something like that.

  8. Yes.

    Or rather, an option to disable markers is something that needs to happen. As someone that loves RPGs, it is rather annoying trying to avoid the marker and there is no way to disable it. Unless i hide the HUD but i end up missing the subtitles and i am rather paranoid about sound issues thus subtitles are always on. It elimanates the challenge and fun of having to work out where to go next.

    I will agree that FPSes should retain markers as most are linear and use “Ooo, pretty.. oh goddamnit, should have paid attention” as their feature thus needing a marker to help the player find the next step. In RPGs, no. It ruins the immersion a bit and is annoying to bypass. I like the reward of finding my way out of a large dungoen without needing a marker if it’s quest related. Open World RPGs should always have an option to disable it for immersion as it is rather annoying to have an arrow or green trail(Hope that is a damn perk in 4 and not the standard marker) showing you the way. It can also reduce enjoyment of quests if it points to X that you’ve done and know that it is waiting for you instead of having an unexpected but thrilling surprise.

    Sadly, it seems that markers will be in everything within the next few years without options to disable them.

  9. Waypoints and markers can be done in several ways, some good some bad.

    Given the limits in computer games, I believe they have their valid use. Sometimes it is hard to orient yourself in a huge open world with limited graphics that are reused. Often models are just decoration, execept for the rare occasions when one model is interactive (a button, lever, computer terminal etc) which you need to use to continue the story.

    At the same time, help like this can be in your face or subtle. Some games use them (or the lack of them) as a game mechanic. Having an open world but mapping out the trail you should follow might be good if the world is empty and boring, but bad if you want to encourage exploration.

    Not all waypoints are created equal, so don’t treat them that way. Instead, ask the developers to implement them correctly and make the games themselves interesting and fun to explore.

  10. Waypoints should always be available, I hate playing a game where there is no indication of where to go. Going round in circles is boring and i’m too impatient for that. If you don’t like waypoints in open world games, don’t follow them. And do your own thing. It’s really not an issue..

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