Teleporters, Tunnels & Time: understanding Warp Devices in Videogames

Alison Gazzard, University of Heartfordshire.

Rather dry presentation (basically reading slide paper) on how paths and warp points alter the game state. More a good definition and examples of it then anything else.


Game space can be divided up into two types of spaces – paths and tracks.

Paths are bi-directional, freedom of movement. Unicursal – one path, or Multicursal – multiple paths to one place.

An example might of paths could be Mario Sunshine. While there are limits (like walls and water), there is large freedom of movement in the game world. Inspecting the time with relationship to the space is another aspect – Mario is real time, 1:1 real time to playtime.

Tracks are unidirectional and movement is forced in one direction. As if “on a train”, and commonly referenced as being “on rails” such as House of the Dead 2. There are some choice – saving hostages or shooting elements, and small elements of control on the area, although still limited.

Can set branches as well, but is like a break in a train line, track A or track B. These are active volition – where some choices can be made. Suspended Volition don’t have any choice on the tracks – has just the linear path to go through.

Can break the Suspended Volition path with warps however. It acts as a device to change narrative aspects and progression. Mario has Warp Pipes between bits of a level, which provide a small reward (coins) which also help to offset the amount of exploration lost.

In Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction, there are warp points after the literally on-rails portions of the game.

These warps change the time of the game world – so it is not a 1:1: real time to game world time.

There are different types of warps. Toki Tori has one-use warps. There are also bi-directional warps which allow back and forth movement between levels, such as Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. It can be additionally a bit of a puzzle itself, finding or getting to a return warp point. Portal Warps are, well, like Portal. The player has full visibility of both start and end parts of a warp, and don’t necessarily have to be fixed.

Inadvertent warps can also exist – Mario has warps to advance through the game quickly, although they may not have built up the skills to get to those levels. However with no saves, it does allow advanced players to get forwards.

In the same game there are also a bad -1 level warp, which is infinite and uninteresting, with no return to the normal game.

So, therefore, there are most explanations between warps, which can move people between paths and tracks.


Didn’t note any.

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