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Photograph of Ben Gammon

Created by Ben Gammon

16th June

To help orientate the player and help them successfully navigate the environment to points of interest and objectives.

Unlike the mini map, a compass only shows the player if they are heading towards a point of interest. It does not give visual clues of the environment surrounding the player.

See also: Mini Map

  • When to use

    • Use when the level/world is large
    • Use when there are multiple ways to reach the same destination
    • Use when there are lots of different points of interest
  • Solution

    • The cardinal directions: north (N), east (E), south (S) and west (W), spaced evenly along a line
    • Only a section of the compass line is shown at a time. This corresponds to the current field of view
    • A player can continuously turn in circles, therefore the compass line should seamlessly repeat
    • Clearly mark quest markers and points of interest with relevant icons along the line in the direction they are from the current location
    • Optionally, display an up/down arrow above or below the icon to indicate whether it is higher or lower than the current position of the player
    • Optionally, reduce the opacity of the icon if they are higher or lower than the current position of the player

Game Examples:

Tap on or hover over an example thumbnail to view the context of the Compass, if a screenshot exists.

  • The Black Death

  • Skyrim

  • No Man's Sky

  • Mass Effect Andromeda

Technical Details

North (N), east(E), south (S), and (W) should always be present on the compass line. Even if the player does not know where they are, this will allow them to orientate themselves with a constant point of reference.

Further directions can be added for greater detail if needed: northeast (NE), southeast (SE), southwest (SW) and northwest (NW).

Only part of the compass line is visible at any one time. This corresponds with the direction in which the player is currently facing. As the player turns, the compass line shifts as well so that it always shows the direction in front of the player.

Because a player can turn in continuous circles the compass line should also continuously repeat. So this:


Should become this:


Quest markers and nearby points of interest can be positioned along the compass line in their direction from the current location of the player. This allows the player to head in the general direction of a marker, without having to open up the full map to check they are on the right course.

Some destinations might be above or below the player. If this is the case it can be useful to place an up arrow above the icon or a down arrow below it, to give the player a better chance of finding it.

If there is room, this could also be achieved without arrows and instead positioning the icons above or below the compass line.

Marking the compass line with the last death location is a great way to help show the player a place they might want to avoid or where they need to go to pick up their dropped loot.


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