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Some games (Unreal World comes to mind, but there are others) have some interesting tracking mechanics as well. I think it'd make some sense for adventurers to have some abilities like that, and the better you are, the more precise the information you can get from tracks (and how easy it is to spot them) could be. Like perhaps you're following a bear to its cave. Or some bandits back to their base, and a good tracker can estimate how many there would be. How many days ago a caravan passed through somewhere. Spot trees that have been hugged by elfs. And things like that.
...if things actually moves on the world map, no idea. If not, I guess you could still generate some tracks around "interesting" spots that lead somewhere, but it'd be a less interesting feature ;)

In any case, right now most of the actual gameplay seems to happen in battles. Well, that's to be expected, but I think it should be somewhat balanced with player interactivity on the world map (beyond ther usual talking, recruiting, equipping...). Searching and exploring sound like a decent angle to tackle this. Of course, it shouldn't go too far in the wrong direction, so you'll have to spend hours searching for every 5 minute quest, but I'd rather have one or two of those than a boring railroad experience of running after markers ...

Singleplayer Mount & Blade has an excellent tracking system. It can tell you how big a party was, the direction it was going, and how long ago it was there.

As far as quest markers go, there has to be some kind of happy middle ground. Somewhere between "walk to the lake and turn left at some trees" (*cough* Balmorra mages guild quest*) and the Big White Arrow that points to the chest at the bottom of the cave no one has entered in a thousand years (every Skyrim quest ever). A quest marker is fine as long as it makes sense. For example, if someone tells you to go to this city and visit Steve's house, it would make sense that the marker could point to a house in the middle of the city. The quest giver would have likely been to Steve's house before and can point on your map, like "Hey, its right here, the third house on the left." But for things out in the wild, someone shouldn't be able to point out the exact location of caves like it's google maps, and certainly shouldn't be able to point out the exact spot in the cave where something is. I do like how some MMOs do quest markers and give you a big circle on your map, so you know if you're at least looking in the right area.

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Having just played Morrowind again after a 10 year hiatus (and loving it), I have to say that I understand exactly quest markers were put into common practice.

Morrowind is an old school Elder Scrolls game, so just wandering around and seeing the world is a big part of it. But even replaying a game where I exhaustively completed all quests multiple times in my younger days, and still remember them, I still found some quests mind numbingly boring to complete because the directions given by NPCs were not always that great. The larger and more open the world (and Vvardenfell is pretty big and open), the more need there is to at least point people in the right way OR have really good directions given to players when the location of a quest is known by the giver.

Otherwise, this conversation happpens:

"Nereravine, slayer of Dagoth Ur, hero of Morrowind, go deliver this food to the hermit living on an island southwest of Dagon Fel, who, for religious reasons, is living alone."

"No problem, religious person in charge. I am always willing to help, even when the quest is small. That's the kind of guy I am. So, there are 20 islands southwest of Dagon Fel. You wanna give me a clue which one you are talking about? I mean, you put the hermit there in accordance with temple doctrine. Surely you could give me a clue."

"No, hero, your quest is all the more heroic because you don't know on which island the hermit is located."

"Okay. I mean, that might mean I won't get there for awhile. I might end up plundering three Daedric shrines and ancestral tombs on the way if I get lost. It could be weeks before I deliver the food. He might starve."

"That's okay. We don't really care whether the hermit lives or dies. If we did, we'd give you more to go on or a quest marker."

If the goal is to "find something we can't locate," then a quest marker is inappropriate. But if the quest giver knows the exact location of the target, then either you need to give players plenty of information or give them a quest marker (depending on how your game handles NPCs giving exposition to players; I understand voice acting is expensive, and quest markers are cheaper than getting Sean Bean to give 500 words of exposition on quest locations.)
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