A Few New Terms for the Critical Gaming Glossary

February 9th, 2014

In order to talk about games as I do, I need a specialised vocabulary of words to help me along. For several years now, I’ve been using Richard Terrell’s Critical Gaming Blog and the Critical Glossary to anchor my writing. Sometimes, though, I need to come up with my own words. Such as when I talked about player roles in Heavy Rain a few years ago. Below I’ve documented the twenty or so words I came up with to get me through my Wario Land 4 book, Game Design Companion.

Arrangement – A group of game elements arranged together, ie. a unit of level design.

Pre-fold – The first half of folded level design, where the player makes their way to the fold.

Post-fold – The second half of folded level design, where the player makes their way from the fold to the starting point.

Interaction set in context – A way of saying “an interaction and all the context that defines it”. Context being the feel of inputting the mechanic, the meanings and associations with the function, the background for the interaction, the visual and aural representation of the game elements and execution of the interaction, etc. An interaction set in context is the smallest unit of meaning in a video game.

Premise – The premise establishes the game world, its characters, and the personality and role of the avatar. By defining the avatar, the premise gives the player the information they need to inhabit the playable character and make interactions under their persona. Since the player/avatar interacts with the game world, the premise gives all individual interactions a collective purpose.

Restricted-to-Freer Practice – A model of variation whereby a level initially restricts the player’s freedom in order to ensure that they understand what is being taught, before opening up to slowly allow the player to take ownership of the content.

Bounding Box – The outer edges of level for a game set in the side-scrolling perspective. Bounding boxes often dictate the behaviour of the camera.

Form Accentuates Function – A type of form fits function where the form exaggerates the function so as to make the function more apparent to the player. (I’m thinking that this term is probably moot, but it served its purpose in the book).

Form is Familiar – Where a game element looks like something from real life so as to immediately give the player an idea about its function.

Test Teach Test – A form of education where the teacher proposes a problem to the students and has them try to solve it, observing as they fail miserably. Afterwards, the teacher introduces the lesson’s content before allowing the students to return to the original problem, now with the know-how to successfully solve it.

Fixed Linear Progression Model – A form of game progression where the player must complete the game in a linear order and has no control over progression.

Freer Linear Progression Model – A form of game progression where the player has some minor control over the way they progress through the game. For example, choosing which level to play first, where both levels must be completed.

Pure Fold – A form of folded level design where the pre-fold is the same area as the post-fold.

Reroute – A form of folded level design where the post-fold redirects the player to a different route from the pre-fold.

Skirting Along the Fold – A form of folded level design where the post-fold reroutes the player through a separated channel that is part of the pre-fold.

Environmental Upheaval – A form of folded level design where the post-fold is radically different from the pre-fold, but still uses the same base level design.

Dog Ear – A form of folded level design where the post-fold is very short.

Phases – Solid and permanent sections of a boss fight or key challenge. Once a phased is reached, the challenge cannot go backwards to an earlier phase.

Forms – Fluid and temporary sections of a boss fight or key challenge. Similar to phases, but the challenge can go backwards to an earlier form.

Linear Phase Structure – A structure used for bosses and key challenges where the boss/challenge has several phases and the player progresses through these phases linearly.

Looping Form Structure – A structure used for bosses and key challenges where the boss/challenge has multiple forms and can revert to an earlier form.

Without these words, I wouldn’t have been able to talk about Wario Land 4 much at all.

  • So I guess in terms of examples (from Wario Land 4 and Shake It), these levels and bosses would illustrate your points?

    Interaction set in context Interaction set in context – One of the things apparently lacking in Wario Land Shake It, which explains why it has less of an appeal than Wario Land 4.

    Restricted-to-Freer Practice – Not sure. Are there a lot of levels that usually start by restricting your path and then open up more? This seems more like an RPG game design ‘trope’ than a platformer one, it’s very obviously present in Mario & Luigi and Pokemon games.

    Fixed Linear Progression Model – Like the overworld in Yoshi’s Island I guess. Or perhaps the one in Wario Land Shake It, which explains its lack of replayability a bit.

    Pure Fold – Possibly the Golden Passage in 4, Palm Tree Paradise in Wario Land 4’s S Hard mode and Launchpad Labyrinth and Lowdown Depths in Shake It, where the whole level is just racing back to the start point under timer restrictions.

    Reroute – Pinball Zone and Arabian Night in 4, which have you go down a completely new path with new rooms and content after hitting the frog switch. Maybe also Doodle Woods.

    Skirting Along the Fold – The Big Board in Wario Land 4, which has you bypass bits of the pre fold level content.

    Dog Ear – Only the intro level in 4 ever does this as far as I know. Am I missing something?

    Environmental Upheaval – So Fiery Cavern basically.

    Phases, Linear Phase Structure – How bosses work in Wario Land Shake It. And for most of Wario Land 4 as much as I remember.

    Looping Form Structure – I think only Cractus and the Golden Diva actually work like this. The rest are just ‘one phase is down, now phase 2 begins’ until they’re dead.

  • As you read through the book, you’ll get a better understanding of how these terms are applied. In any case:

    Interaction set in context – All games have this. It’s an interaction with some context (could be visual, aural, relative placement in level etc.) to give it definition.

    Restricted-to-Freer Practice – Sure. Many games use this model of level variation because it’s such an effective way to teach. Wario Land 4, like many Nintendo games, really ran with it though. The Level Analysis section makes this abundantly clear.

    Fixed Linear Progression Model – Yup. Although replayability is another matter.

    Pure Fold – Palmtree Paradise is a pure fold. Golden Passage isn’t, but only because the Iwao enemy in the second room prevents the player from returning the way they came.

    Reroute – Arabian Nights and Doddle Woods are reroutes, but Pinball Zone is a skirting along the fold because the isolated post-fold chamber has the player go through the prior rooms, but through a separate stream.

    Skirting Along the Fold – In Big Board, you pass through the pre-fold rooms the same way as you did to reach the fold, so it’s a pure fold. There are some bits of scaffolding, but it’s quite different from Wildflower Fields or Pinball Zone.

    Dog ear and environmental upheaval are correct.

    Linear Phase Structure – Correct. Most games use this model for their boss battles.

    Looping Form Structure – It’s just Aerodent. Cractus has some offshoot phases, but you can never have him revert to a previous “main” phrase. You do have to repeat some steps with Golden Diva, but it’s effectively all linear.

    Looks like you were mostly correct. Well done!

  • Thanks for the reply and more explantation! Yeah, I read the book in its entirety since I wrote that comment, so if anything is now seen as incorrect, it’s simply because I was only at about chapter 3 or 4 when the comment was originally posted.

    Pinball Zone being a skirting along the fold example kind of surprised me, but hey, I guess I see what you mean there. I never really considered the level as going between two different ‘sections’ til I read your chapter/section on it in the book.