A warp, also known as a portal or teleporter, is an element in video game design that allows a player character instant travel between two locations or levels. Specific areas that allow such travel are referred to as warp zones. A warp zone might be a secret passage, accessible only to players capable of finding it, but they are also commonly used as a primary mean of travel in certain games. Warps might be deliberately installed within puzzles, be used to avoid danger in sections of a game that have been previously accompished, be something a player can abuse for cheating or be used as a punishment to a player straying from the "correct" path.
In some games, a player can only use warps to travel to locations they have visited before. Because of this, a player has to make the journey by normal route at least once, but are not required to travel the same paths again if they need to visit earlier areas in the game. Finding warp zones might become a natural goal of a gaming session, being used as a checkpoint.
Though it is unclear which video game first made use of teleportation areas or devices, the element has been traced back to MUDs, where it allowed connected rooms to not be "topologically correct" if necessary. The element was later popularized by Super Mario Bros., in which secret areas referred to within the game as warp zones allowed players to skip forward through the game.
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"Warp Zone" is also a specific method used in Unreal engine mapping (level design). A Warp Zone in this sense is a method of (somewhat) seamlessly connecting two parts of a level that are not normally connected.
For example, there may be two rooms, separated by empty space, with no hallway in between. If a designer Placed a doorway shape on the east wall of one room and another on the west wall of the other room, then setting the doorways up as a Warp Zone, the player could see, move, and shoot through the doorways as if the rooms were physically right next to one another, with a real doorway in between.
Aside from making it easier to create a level in sections, this method enables the level designer to do interesting tricks with space, such as creating containers that appear bigger on the inside than on the outside, or doorways on one side of a room that lead to ones on the other side of the same room.
Author Luke Cuddy states that warps are used to keep the players entertained by "allowing them to jump to the next gameplay goal, straight into the action." However, he has also criticized them for robbing the player of the sensation of "being in" a virtual world, stating that "[b]y emphasizing destination over the places in between, warping encourages a 'quick visit, move-on-to-the-next-place' mentality that frames space as disposable." Warps discourage exploration and may weaken the player's knowledge of spatial relationships.
Ernest Adams critiques possible unexpected behavior by warp zones: "Teleporters can further complicate matters by not always working the same way, teleporting the player to one place the first time they are used, but to somewhere else the second time, and so on. They can also be one-way or two-way, teleporting players somewhere with no way to get back, or allowing them to teleport again."
Despite the linear simplicity of Super Mario Bros., the game has been cited to feature a surprising amount of depth and spatial complexity in part due to secret warp zones scattered through the game. Portal is a critically aclaimed game that uses warps as its core gameplay mechanic.
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At first glance, the levels seem simple, but thanks in great part to the shortcuts, secret areas and Warp Zones scattered throughout the worlds, the game has a surprising amount of depth and spatial complexity.
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Ducking down a into a pipe can advance a player past a large portion of a level, but this also means skipping several rewards. Finding one of the game's 'Warp Zone' rooms lets the player skip past entire levels and worlds, but that forfeits any points that could be collected by completing those levels. ... Super Mario Bros. is so full of pleasant surprises that there are practically too many to count.
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