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Game World

Game World

The environment in which the gameplay or parts of the gameplay takes place is determined by the spatial relationships of the game elements.

Usually games have a Game World in which the spatial relationships of game elements are important, for example, the actual game board in Monopoly. There are other elements where the spatial relationships are not important as long as categories can be identified, for example, the amount of money each player has in Monopoly. The strict definition adopted here requires that the elements in the Game World have spatial relationships that define and constrain the possible movements within the Game World. As already stated, many games have both the spatial Game World and other elements that have a possible impact on the Game World but that do not have spatial relationships. The Game World is usually limited and contained, but some games, for example, Five-in-a-Row, have a potentially infinite Game World.

Game Worlds can be classified first into continuous and discrete. The movement for the player in a continuous Game World is at least seemingly fluid and continuous, and in discrete Game Worlds, the movement happens in larger steps. This classification is not clear cut, as it can be argued that every computer Game World is, in fact, discrete, as the positions and the environment are expressed in digital format. The second categorization concerns the main spatial relationships between the game elements. These basic categories are: linear (or 1D), reticular, 2D and 3D. These categories are orthogonal to the continuous and discrete categorization so that there are eight basic categories (even though the reticular-continuous category is slightly troublesome). Linear Game Worlds are those in which the movement can happen only in one or two directions. For example, Backgammon and Ludo have linear Game Worlds. The movement in reticular Game Worlds can happen only between connected nodes in a graph. The arrangement of different territories in Diplomacy, Hearts of Iron, and many other strategy games is a good example of a reticular Game World. The 2D Game World is just what it says: the movement is limited to a two-dimensional plane. Chess's board and Pac-Man's levels are good examples of 2D Game Worlds. The last category, 3D, is as straightforward as the previous one: the movement is more or less free in all the three dimensions. Note here that the main classification is based on how the movement, and not only player movement, is limited in the world and not on the graphical representation of the world. This means that, for example, a computer Chess with splendidly rendered 3D graphics still has a 2D Game World.

Example: Even though the view to the world was in 3D, the Game World of Wolfenstein 3D still remained two-dimensional [Kent01].

Using the pattern

The defining features of a Game World are the spatial relationships between the game elements, which determine what kinds of Movement actions are possible in the game (see Levels for details on possible game elements). A designer must first determine if there is a need for the Game World and then decide based on the desired basic Movement actions which kind of game worlds would suit the gameplay the best. Another basic decision concerning Game Worlds is how players should experience them: concretely through First-Person Views and Third-Person Views or abstractly through Storytelling.

Populating the Game World with game elements can be continuous or can be done before gameplay begins. Players' perceptions of the Game World will be strongly affected by the presence of any known Strategic Locations due to the placement of these types of game elements. Continuous introduction of game elements requires Resource Generators or Spawn Points, or players may create them, by Construction or by acting as Producers. Other common game elements in Game Worlds include Resources, Obstacles, Inaccessible Areas, Enemies, Deadly Traps, Helpers, and Goal Points. Besides player actions, the effects of Producers and Converters can change not only the game elements in the Game World but aspects of the Game World itself. The presence of game elements, and Strategic Locations due to geographical features in the Game World, significantly affects Player Balance and decides which locations are suitable for specific actions such as Camping.

In addition to game elements, the appearance of the Game World can be modulated by Outstanding Features. These can either point to the presence of game elements or simply give reference points to players and thereby support Game World Navigation. Area Control does not change the appearance of the Game World but changes how players can perform actions within the Game World.

The Game World can be constructed so that players have either a full overview through a God View or have a partial overview using Fog of War, Game State Overview, and varying abilities of Avatars and Units. The concrete difference here is whether players are able to view the whole game world at once. The presence of Easter Eggs and Secret Resources can encourage Exploration when players do not have a complete overview of the Game World. The spatial characteristics of a Game World can be further specified by designing it to be open or closed. An open game world can be expanded during gameplay, potentially infinitely or through creating spatial cycles, while a closed one has a predefined maximum size.

Game Worlds can be constructed to appear continuous or made out of Tiles, possibly through Tile-Laying. Besides this decision of how the Game World should be perceived on a fine level of granularity, the game world can be partitioned into different areas, Levels, on a higher level of granularity. The Levels make the rest of the Game World into Inaccessible Areas, and this can be used to guarantee different modes of play or to maintain a Narrative Structure. Game Worlds can be predetermined by the designer or constructed by the players by using a Reconfigurable Game World. In both cases, the designer has to first figure out the basic building blocks of the Game World, even when the world is continuous. The granularity or size of a Game World can be modulated during gameplay through Dedicated Game Facilitators. Especially Game Masters, who can provide Storytelling, can provide additional information such as the history of the Game World or facts that are not quantified in the game system. In Player Constructed Worlds and Roleplaying, players can do actions similar to Game Masters and provide a way to create a stable form of Never Ending Stories.

Game Worlds can evolve in several different ways. Besides the effect of players' actions on game elements, Storytelling and Ultra-Powerful Events such as Shrinking Game Worlds can change the environment during gameplay.


Game Worlds give players an Alternative Reality inwhich they can experience Immersion through Spatial Immersion, especially in games with First-Person Views. The Game World limits the area on which players have to focus and also often very intuitively limits the possible movement actions, creating a basis for Consistent Reality Logic. Specifically, the activities outside the Game World related to the game should in these cases only concern administrative tasks (distributing resources, converting "money," moving score markers, etc.) and performing activities required by the mechanics of the game (e. g., rolling dice).

Not all games have a Game World ---in Paper-Rock-Scissors there is no need for a Game World ---while most of the card games do not have meaningful spatial relationships between the cards that would determine possible Movement actions.


Instantiates: Spatial Immersion, Exploration, Immersion

Modulates: Player Balance, Camping, Roleplaying

Instantiated by: Tiles, Reconfigurable Game World, Levels

Modulated by: God Views, Deadly Traps, Goal Points, Fog of War, Resource Generators, Never Ending Stories, Converters, First-Person Views, Producers, Construction, Resources, Game State Overview, Movement, Inaccessible Areas, Tile-Laying, Game Masters, Storytelling, Player Constructed Worlds, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Easter Eggs, Secret Resources, Obstacles, Enemies, Spawn Points, Helpers, Strategic Locations, Outstanding Features, Area Control, Third-Person Views, Shrinking Game World

Potentially conflicting with:

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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