Spatial Checkpoint

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The boundary between juxtaposed sublocations of the gameplay space. Crossing this boundary must make a difference in the gameplay, or else it is not a spatial checkpoint.

Spatial checkpoints divide a space into sublocations that follow one another continuously (in contrast to the discreteness witnessed in levels), being the boundaries between these sublocations. In order to be considered a form of spatial segmentation, there must be differences that impact gameplay when the player moves from one sublocation to the next, otherwise there would not be any segmentation. Some examples of affecting gameplay in this way include not allowing the player to move back to a previous sublocation once a spatial checkpoint has been reached, resetting/modifying some game variables – such as the amount of time the player has to reach the next sublocation –, awarding bonus points, or resuming the game from the spatial checkpoint last cleared before losing a life. Finally, the player must also be aware he has made this transition from one sublocation to another in order to consider a spatial subdivision a checkpoint. Games with gameworlds larger than the screen, and which scroll continuously when the player moves, do not usually feature spatial checkpoints unless some of the conditions above are met.

Some of the questions that can help identify a Spatial Checkpoint would be:

  • are there any markers of the change of sublocation (e.g. a checkpoint, change of music or a sign that announces the new location)?
  • Can the player go back after reaching the spatial checkpoint?
  • Are there any changes in the gameplay after crossing the spatial checkpoint?
  • Are counters / stats reset after going through the spatial checkpoint?

Answering yes to these questions reinforces the notion of an instantiated spatial checkpoint.


Strong Example

Moon Patrol Each level of Moon Patrol is subdivided using spatial checkpoints. Each checkpoint represents a different challenge, in terms of enemies and obstacles, and they mark an additional checkpoint in the player’s progress. If the player loses a life between checkpoints, he would not have to restart the course, but automatically resumes playing from the last checkpoint reached. These subdivisions are not considered levels, since the player moves continuously from one to the next with no pause in gameplay; undefeated enemies from the one subsection can also follow the player into the next.

Strong Example

Sonic The Hedgehog 3

This game uses both checkpoints and spatial checkpoints. In each level, around half-way through, there is a spatial checkpoint. After this point is reached, either the space changes (e.g. the world is put of fire by the boss), or the new area is separated from the previous (e.g. via a tunnel, or chasm). After these spatial checkpoints, there is really no point in going back, since you’re supposed to have picked up all the rings on your way, and the aim is to finish each level as soon as possible. This is reinforced by the concurrence of checkpoints, the lollipop-like markers that the player activates, so that when she dies, the player character will start in the checkpoint rather than at the beginning of the game.

Strong Example

Diablo II

In Diablo II: Lord of Destruction for the PC, the world is spacially segmented. It is divided into zones of increasing difficulty. Messages, music, and sometimes recovery emerge during a transition between zones. The existance of "waypoints" in zones are a form of spatial checkpoint. These help to save progress throughout the world, by giving the player access to previously discovered zones.

Weak Example

Spy Hunter

If you die within a certain time limit, a truck will bring a new car, letting you start from the point that you just crashed. If the initial time limit has expired, and you crash, your game is over (there are no lives in the game).

Relations with other elements of the Ontology


Spatial Segmentation


Sonic The Hedgehog 3. Sega (1994) Sega: Sega Genesis

Spy Hunter. Midway (1983) Bally Midway: Arcade