Warp Zones

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Links between physically non-adjacent locations in game world to make them spatial neighbors.

Game worlds sometimes want to represent spaces built on other premises than those of the mediums they are presented through. This can for example be to create spherical worlds represented on two-dimensional maps, or magical or futuristic portals that directly connect two parts of a game world that are located far away from each other.

For additional information (and examples), see the Wikipedia entry[1].


Pac-Man makes use of Warp Zones to make it possible to move from one part of the left edge of the game world to one part of the right edge and vice versa. All the edges in Asteroids are Warp Zones to other edges of the game world, making it have a toroid gameplay space[2].

Risk, Pandemic, the Europa Universalis series, the Civilization series all make use of Warp Zones to present a spherical world on a 2-dimensional space. This is done through Warp Zones that connect together the two vertical edges. This is typically not noticeable for players of games originating as computer-based games, but for Board Games such as Risk and Pandemic it is of course noticeable since the board itself does not wrap around to become a cylinder.

Technically, all Tabletop Roleplaying Games make use of Warp Zones for all movement (except those done on combat maps), and the same applies to movement in text-based games such as the Zork series or Kingdoms. If this is noticeable to players may depend on if the Warp Zones are used to create consistent two- or three-dimensional worlds or not.

Level-based games such as the Super Mario series, the Quake series, the Half-Life series, and Viewtiful Joe all make use of Warp Zones in the sense that Levels are not connected but seem so through the games moving players between them when they have fulfilled various objectives. The Elder Scrolls series and the Dragon Age series have this structure as well but make the activation of Warp Zones into player-decided actions. The portal to the Nether in Minecraft also need to be activated to be used, but in addition to this it needs to be built from mined obsidian.

Some games let players create Warp Zones. The Portal series gives players the tool to create two sets of Warp Zone pairs to solve the various puzzles in them game. Engineers in Team Fortress 2 can create one-way teleporter pairs that team mates can use to quickly travel to other parts of maps.

Using the pattern

Warp Zones are used to allow Movement possibilities in cases where Transport Routes do not work. Warp Zones have three important characteristics: where they are located, what other part of the game world they connect to, and how they are activated.

The two basic choices of Warp Zone location is inside the Game Worlds or in direct connection to a border or edge of them. While the latter are typically used to create not individual spots as Warp Zones (here Pac-Man is an exception) but whole lines or planes as Warp Zones , the ones created inside typically create point-to-point Warp Zones. The ones inside can either be presented as diegetic game elements, e.g. Installations or Environmental Effects, or as Geospatial Game Widgets. Warp Zones do naturally not need to all be placed in the Game Worlds before gameplay begins; they can be created or revealed as part of the unfolding of Predetermined Story Structures or Rewards, or be created by players as for example done in the Portal series.

Where Warp Zones lead can of course be anywhere but there are a couple of typically reasons for the specific choices regarding this. One is to make it easy for players to move to specific Quests or Safe Havens (e.g. the Fallout series or the Dragon Age series) while another is to make the games have a different typology than the medium it is presented in (e.g. Risk, Asteroids, and the Civilization series). Minecraft makes use of Warp Zones to move between the ordinary world and the Nether which otherwise is not accessible, showing the Warp Zones can be used to connect several distinct worlds within the same Game World. A final reason for placement of Warp Zones is to move players to the next wanted position for a Predetermined Story Structure.

Due to Diegetic Consistency, Warp Zones are often paired up so that one can move first through one and then another to return back where on started. Diegetic reasons for One-Way Travel can be found, but this modulation is most commonly done due to advance Predetermined Story Structures and in these cases the Predetermined Story Structures can provide the motivation as well (the teleporter pairs found in Team Fortress 2 is an exception to this). Warp Zones can be used to create Quick Returns so that players do not have to travel back the same way they came after completing a goal, and for these uses One-Way Travel can also be applicable, or at least that the Warp Zones only become activated after the goals are finished.

Warp Zones can be continuously active or need to be activated discretely each time they are to be used. The first is necessary to change the typology while maintaining Thematic Consistency while the second can be used to let players have a Freedom of Choice when to move, and possibly in which way to move between parts of the Game Worlds. Warp Zones that cannot be activated by anybody at any time are examples of Conditional Passageways, and being able to activate them can be a way to give Privileged Abilities to various Agents and being able to create Warp Zones is a form of Privileged Movement. The Portal series use the ability of players to create Warp Zones as a basis for Puzzle Solving to avoid Obstacles hindering the traversal of Levels (in the case of the Portal games, creating the portals are not a form of Privileged Movement since nothing besides players can move under its own power in the Levels).

While Warp Zones are optional for most Game Worlds, those consisting of Game Boards or Levels more often have them since Movement between them is typically done through Quick Travel. Making use of Warp Zones instead of activating Quick Travel and Ultra-Powerful Events is typically done so one can handle issues such as collecting Loot or doing Character Development. It should be noted that if movement through Game Boards or Levels are purely a One-Way Travel throughout a game instance is not probably not relevant for players to notice the presence of Warp Zones as game elements in their own right.

The Movement in text-based games such as the Zork series, DragonMud, and Kingdoms are worth mentioning in relation to Warp Zones. Since the "rooms" players are located in when playing these games do not show the neighboring rooms, i.e. there is no generic overview of larger parts of the Game Worlds in these games, all travel can be said to be done through Warp Zones. Often this is not noticeable for players since they can have mental images of two-dimensional worlds that works, e.g. that by going north and then south one will return where one started. This does however not be true, and has been used in for example the Zork series to require Puzzle Solving as part of Game World Navigation. The same applied for all Tabletop Roleplaying Games but these seldom require Puzzle Solving for navigation (an exception to this can be found in the module B7 Rahasia[3] for the basic edition of Dungeons & Dragons).

Warp Zones are defined as being related to spatial distances, but just like real world theories on wormholes[4] they can have a relation to time travel. The time travelling possible in Day of the Tentacle, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and Zork III and Zork Grand Inquiestor in the Zork series can all be discussed in terms of Warp Zones and many of the design choices remain constant independently if the Warp Zones related to time or space.

Diegetic Aspects

Warp Zones are often introduce to provide Diegetic and Thematic Consistency (e.g. that one should be able to circumnavigate a world). However, they can break Thematic Consistency when they point out areas that are not accessible in Game Worlds, and can break Diegetic Consistency when they point out areas not part of Game Worlds. Breaks in Thematic Consistency can also occur when Warp Zones are supposed to represent abstract travel but the time corresponding to travelling that distances does not pass when the Warp Zones are used.

When inserted as actual game elements or Environmental Effects in Game Worlds, they quite typically are Diegetically Outstanding Features.

Narration Aspects

The use of One-Way Travel through Warp Zones is an efficient way of bringing Predetermined Story Structures forward.


Warp Zones is one way of creating Quick Travel so that one can easily have Movement between separated parts of Game Worlds. By doing so, they modulating the Movement possible as well as the Game Worlds that contain the Warp Zones. This may make Obstacles obsolete which can be a design problem if the Warp Zones are present in the beginning of gameplay but can otherwise be the effect of successful Puzzle Solving.

Warp Zones can provide players with the Freedom of Choice of travelling quickly or not between parts of the Game Worlds.

When players can create Warp Zones, as for example engineers in Team Fortress 2 can, these can be used to create Flanking Routes.


Can Instantiate

Diegetic Consistency, Environmental Effects, Flanking Routes, Freedom of Choice, Geospatial Game Widgets, Installations, Movement, Predetermined Story Structures, Privileged Movement, Puzzle Solving, Quick Travel, Thematic Consistency

Can Modulate

Game Boards, Game World Navigation, Game Worlds, Levels, Movement, Obstacles

Can Be Instantiated By


Can Be Modulated By

Conditional Passageways, Diegetically Outstanding Features, One-Way Travel, Privileged Abilities

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Diegetic Consistency, Obstacles, Thematic Consistency, Transport Routes


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Wikipedia entry for Warp Zones.
  2. Wikipedia entry for Toroid.
  3. Wikipedia entry for the Dungeons and Dragons' module Rahasia.
  4. Wikipedia entry for wormholes.