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An overworld is, in a broad sense, an area within a video game that interconnects all its levels or locations. They are mostly common in role-playing games, though this does not exclude other video game genres.

Video game electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a video device such as a TV screen or computer monitor

A video game is an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface to generate visual feedback on a two- or three-dimensional video display device such as a TV screen, virtual reality headset or computer monitor. Since the 1980s, video games have become an increasingly important part of the entertainment industry, and whether they are also a form of art is a matter of dispute.

Level (video gaming) in a video game, space available to the player in completing an objective

A level, map, area, stage, world, track, board, floor, zone, phase, mission, episode, or course in a video game is the total space available to the player during the course of completing a discrete objective. Video game levels generally have progressively increasing difficulty to appeal to players with different skill levels. Each level presents new content and challenges to keep player's interest high. The use of levels in video games dates back to Namco's shoot 'em up Galaxian, released in 1979 during the golden age of video arcade games.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.


Overworlds generally feature a top-down view or a third-person perspective of the fictional world within the game. It often contains varied terrain (including caves, mountains, forests, and bodies of water) and a collection of towns and other locations (most commonly dungeons or levels). When the party enters one of these locations the world map display may remain on the screen, be replaced by the local geography, or be hidden until the party exits the location. In many games, the player is able to travel on the world map; in other games, the player uses the world map to select their next location. Typically, a dungeon houses a host of enemies, while a town usually is safe. In some games, there are a series of world maps. [1] Some games allow the player to view only a portion of the world map at the beginning of the game, with new locations becoming visible as the game progresses, whereas other games show the entire world map from the beginning. The opposite term "underworld" refers to the world underneath the ground.

Dungeon crawl video game genre

A dungeon crawl is a type of scenario in fantasy role-playing games in which heroes navigate a labyrinthine environment, battling various monsters, and looting any treasure they may find. Because of its simplicity, a dungeon crawl can be easier for a gamemaster to run than more complex adventures, and the "hack and slash" style of play is appreciated by players who focus on action and combat. However dungeon crawls often lack meaningful plot or logical consistency.


Role-playing video games

Overworld map from the video game The Battle for Wesnoth . Battle for wesnoth httt world map.png
Overworld map from the video game The Battle for Wesnoth .

The Ultima series of RPGs marks one of the first uses of an overworld. Many games have emulated Ultima's overworlds, especially fantasy-based ones. The most prominent example in this category is the Dragon Quest series. In each of this type of overworld game, most of the action (or at least most of the plot-advancing action) takes place in towns, forests, dungeons, caves, castles (and the surrounding area), camps, fortresses, mass transportation systems, celestial bodies (e.g. the moon), and other locations. In the Dragon Quest series, the overworld is used as a "travel map", and changes to a closer perspective for direct gameplay or confrontation. The overworlds featured in most of the 2D adventures of this genre commonly depict the character(s)' proportions as larger than they actually would be in the world being traveled, thus lending necessary visibility to the player. The characters' animation in this type of overworld is often simpler than that found in the game's menus and other areas, while more complicated movement such as combat, climbing or visibly handling objects sometimes happens at closer perspectives, and often involves cutscenes.

<i>Ultima</i> (series) Role-playing video games series

Ultima is a series of open world fantasy role-playing video games from Origin Systems, Inc. Ultima was created by Richard Garriott. The series is one of the most significant in computer game history and is considered, alongside Wizardry and Might and Magic, to be one of the establishers of the CRPG genre. Several games of the series are considered seminal entries in their genre, and each installment introduced new innovations which then were widely copied by other games. Electronic Arts own the brand.

Dragon Quest, published as Dragon Warrior in North America until 2005, is a series of Japanese role-playing video games created by Yuji Horii and his studio Armor Project. The games are published by Square Enix, with localized versions of later installments for the Nintendo DS and 3DS being published by Nintendo outside of Japan. With its first title published in 1986, there are eleven main-series titles, along with numerous spin-off games. In addition, there have been numerous manga, anime and novels published under the franchise, with nearly every game in the main series having a related adaptation.


A cutscene or event scene is a sequence in a video game that is not interactive, breaking up the gameplay. Such scenes could be used to show conversations between characters, set the mood, reward the player, introduce new gameplay elements, show the effects of a player's actions, create emotional connections, improve pacing or foreshadow future events.

The Legend of Zelda series

While previous games have featured overworlds, one of the earliest console games to feature an overworld is the Nintendo Entertainment System game The Legend of Zelda . Gameplay in Zelda's overworld was virtually identical to that of its nine underground dungeon levels, offering a top-down perspective and including access to caves, bridges, mazes, shops and waterfalls as well as lurking dangers that range from enemies to tumbling rocks. Much of the immediate gameplay takes place in the overworld, and the diversity of terrain (as well as the sheer size of the overworld itself) ensures that the player will spend as much time exploring and searching above ground as they will below (or in any of the areas listed above). The concept of an overworld also offered a nonlinear gameplay experience; [2] some believed this would cause the player to become confused and not know where to go, a sentiment which has endured as overworlds have become larger and more complex.[ citation needed ]

Nintendo Entertainment System 8-bit video game console produced by Nintendo in 1983

The Nintendo Entertainment System is an 8-bit home video game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. It is a remodeled export version of the company's Family Computer (FC) platform in Japan, also known as the Famicom for short, which launched on July 15, 1983. The NES was launched through test markets in New York City and Los Angeles in 1985, before being given a wide release in the rest of North America and parts of Europe in 1986, followed by Australia and other European countries in 1987. Brazil saw only unlicensed clones until the official local release in 1993. In South Korea, it was packaged as the Hyundai Comboy and distributed by SK Hynix which then was known as Hyundai Electronics; the Comboy was released in 1989.

<i>The Legend of Zelda</i> (video game) action-adventure video game

The Legend of Zelda is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Nintendo and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka. Set in the fantasy land of Hyrule, the plot centers on a boy named Link, the playable protagonist, who aims to collect the eight fragments of the Triforce of Wisdom in order to rescue Princess Zelda from the antagonist, Ganon. During the course of the game, the player navigates throughout the overworld and several dungeons, defeating enemies and uncovering secrets along the way.

A video game with nonlinear gameplay presents players with challenges that can be completed in a number of different sequences. Each player may take on only some of the challenges possible, and the same challenges may be played in a different order. Conversely, a video game with linear gameplay will confront a player with a fixed sequence of challenges: every player faces every challenge and has to overcome them in the same order.

The Zelda series is well known for these large overworld areas, such as Hyrule Field. Many enemies inhabit the various overworlds. The player can see most of these without any special tools, and most are easily defeated or avoided.

There are special items available in most of the overworld areas in the series, but these are often non-essential to completing the overall objective; the main purpose served by an overworld is to connect more important places.

Platform games

Although large-scale overworlds were popularized by The Legend of Zelda in 1986, the genre of platform games did not have overworlds (in the main sense) until 3D platformers appeared in the mid-1990s. The concept of an overworld in platform gaming prior to that time was limited to a "level select" style, which first was first featured in the multi-genre arcade title Dragon Buster , [3] and popularized by other games such as Bionic Commando and Super Mario Bros. 3 . [4] In Spyro the first 3 games had a place called a "home world" that was like an over world. It contained portals to other levels of the game.

Platform game video game genre

Platform games, or platformers, are a video game genre and subgenre of action game. In a platformer the player controlled character must jump and climb between suspended platforms while avoiding obstacles. Environments often feature uneven terrain of varying height that must be traversed. The player often has some control over the height and distance of jumps to avoid letting their character fall to their death or miss necessary jumps. The most common unifying element of games of this genre is the jump button, but now there are other alternatives like swiping a touchscreen. Other acrobatic maneuvers may factor into the gameplay as well, such as swinging from objects such as vines or grappling hooks, as in Ristar or Bionic Commando, or bouncing from springboards or trampolines, as in Alpha Waves. These mechanics, even in the context of other genres, are commonly called platforming, a verbification of platform. Games where jumping is automated completely, such as 3D games in The Legend of Zelda series, fall outside of the genre.

Arcade game coin-operated entertainment machine

An arcade game or coin-op game is a coin-operated entertainment machine typically installed in public businesses such as restaurants, bars and amusement arcades. Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games or merchandisers. While exact dates are debated, the golden age of arcade video games is usually defined as a period beginning sometime in the late 1970s and ending sometime in the mid-1980s. Excluding a brief resurgence in the early 1990s, the arcade industry subsequently declined in the Western hemisphere as competing home video game consoles such as the Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox increased in their graphics and game-play capability and decreased in cost.

<i>Dragon Buster</i> arcade video game

Dragon Buster is a platform dungeon crawl action role-playing arcade game that was developed by Namco in 1984 and released in 1985. It runs on Namco Pac-Land hardware, modified to support vertical scrolling. In Japan, the game was ported to the Family Computer, MSX and Sharp X68000; the latter version was later released for the Virtual Console in the same region on November 18, 2008. Dragon Buster has been ported for the PSP and is available as part of Namco Museum Battle Collection. It was followed by a Japan-only Famicom sequel, Dragon Buster II: Yami no Fūin, and was later followed by the PlayStation game Dragon Valor, which was both a remake and sequel.

Previous titles like Super Mario Bros. and Castlevania revolved around the player completing levels in a linear order, with no option to return to completed levels. It is likely that the overworlds developed for 3D games, such as some of those listed above, evolved from the level-select type overworlds featured in prior 2D platform games, such as those seen in Super Mario Bros. 3 and Donkey Kong Country . [5] Beginning with Super Mario Bros. 3, every Mario platformer has featured either a level-select type overworld (e.g. Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros. ) or a hub-type overworld (e.g. Peach's Castle in Super Mario 64 and the Comet Observatory in Super Mario Galaxy ) - a central, usually enemy-free area - that connects to levels and other important places. As the genre evolved and became more popular, the overworld concept expanded into other platformers - from Kirby's Adventure to the Donkey Kong series - becoming a staple of the genre that endures as a prominent feature.

Home level

The town level in the roguelike game Angband. Angband.png
The town level in the roguelike game Angband.

A home level is an area found within a roguelike video game. It is usually a haven for the hero characters, where enemy hostility is minimal. In most cases, the home level features shops in which the player can purchase items, and is often the initial site of the story or game, although in some games it is a location discovered later. In some games, such as Destiny of an Emperor , as the story progresses, the location of the home level may change, or there may be other such places that serve a similar purpose. Larn , a 1980s roguelike game, was among the earliest to feature a home level.

Some games feature a home level that contains many different points of interest. The home level in Angband , for instance, consists of seven shops, the player's home (where characters may store unneeded items), and a staircase to the first dungeon level. Some variants of the home level add specialty shops, quest locations, or a wilderness through which additional towns can be discovered.

Many of the games that have an overworld feature a world map of some sort; these range from very basic - such as a gray rectangle with a dot indicating the position of the character in The Legend of Zelda - to an overworld map that can be toggled on and off, but shows only rough outlines of various locations, as well as the character's ever-changing location, such as in later installments in the Zelda series, or many Final Fantasy games.

Other games, including several installments in the Ultima and Wasteland series, include detailed, often colorful maps on cloth or paper that came bundled with the game and is meant to be used to navigate while playing the game. Games like Miracle Warriors even came with a little action figure in metal meant to be placed on your position.

Whatever the map style employed (if any), varied world map terrain such as mountains, rivers and deserts may prevent the character(s) from visiting an area until they have completed a certain task or acquired a special skill, vehicle or other key item. [6] Many CRPGs eventually allow the player rapid movement around the overworld, using such methods as flying, [7] sailing, or teleporting [8] to various locations. The map icon is often represented as a rectangle. Usually, flying or sailing across one edge of the map will bring the character(s) to the edge of the opposite side.

In some games, certain areas of the overworld map are hidden from the player, or at least difficult to reach; these "secret" areas often contain difficult-to-obtain items, or they might simply hold "Easter Egg"-style novelties or other such diversions. In some games, especially those that have a "level select" style of overworld (e.g. a lot of old-school 2D platform games), portions of the overworld become available for play as certain tasks are completed (e.g. beating a particular level or discovering a secret hidden within a level).

Audio design

In terms of Video game music, overworld themes are often orchestral in nature, and of greater length and complexity than other pieces in the same game, due to the amount of time spent traveling the overworld map.[ citation needed ] Because players will usually visit a single level or area a few times in a given play session, the music for any such section of the game will typically be shorter and/or less complex, [9] and thus less time-consuming for the designers to produce. The overworld theme frequently functions as a main theme of a game, often used as a motif for other tracks (e.g., a "romance" theme features the main melody of overworld theme, orchestrated in a different key). [10]

See also

Notes and references

  1. In some Final Fantasy games, for example, the player can travel between the earth and the moon, each of which has its own world map. Additionally, in Final Fantasy III , once the player obtains an airship, they may leave their current world to find themselves in a larger world map with a selection representing the first world.
  2. Long, Andrew. "Oldest School". RPGamer. Retrieved 2006-10-01.
  3. Buster Overworld at AllGame
  4. In these and similar games, the character doesn't actually travel on a world map (viz. freedom to move is strictly limited to linear direction); rather, the player only repositions the character on an adjacent location (a dot or icon that represents a level) that is connected by a rail (which may not be visible) to other adjacent locations. The Wild Arms series and the Super Mario series are popular examples.
  5. PC World - Super Mario Advance 4 (GBA) Test Report
  6. For example, in many Zelda games, Link must obtain an item hidden in one dungeon that will allow him to progress to the next dungeon. Often, these items can be obtained only after completing a side quest or reaching a certain point in the game.
  7. Many games, most notably those of the Final Fantasy series, provide airships for flying. Other games will feature flying animals such as large birds, Chocobos or dragons.
  8. Teleporting is commonly referred to as warping.
  9. "The Evolution of Video Game Music", All Things Considered , July 28, 2008.
  10. Early Video Game Soundtracks 2001 article on video game music, orig. published in In Magazine.

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