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A very common game mechanic where the player is invited explore the environment with the intent to discover new areas or upgrades. The concept is far reaching in that it applies to almost every game, from the RTS to the Platformer.   Usually the more diligent the player in searching everywhere, the more rewards the player is met with, these rewards vary from interesting sights to see, easter eggs, power ups, more ammo, etc. etc.

Common Types of Exploration

Super Metroid in-game map screenshot.

Fill in the Blank

This type of exploration was really pioneered in the Metroid Series. You start off with an empty map screen and as you progress you fill it out, making it easy to navigate and plot your course around through the world. As you fill it in you are sometimes rewarded with locating items that would have been missed, or sometimes in the case of the new Final Fantasy IV remake, of being rewarded with items on the spot for completing each levels map. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is also an excellent candidate of using this function.


Halo 3 Skulls

Easter Egg Hunting

Alot of the times, exploration isn't a neccessary part of the game, unlike the previous example, it is however a bonus. Developers will hide either foreign objects to the games canon, or hidden vistas that reward the player with a good ol fashioned chuckle from time to time. Sometimes the game will reward the player for discovering certian easter eggs with unlockables as well. I good example is the skull hunt in Halo 3. Blizzard is also very well known for throwing self refrential easter eggs through out all of their games.


Secrets!

Probably the most used type of exploration is when developers will place secret items, power ups, or paths in the game that the player must be diligent enough to seek out. The Mario series is probably best know for this iconic usage of exploration. The player can be rewarded by skipping complete stages by using certian hidden items or rooms. In Mario 3 for instance finding hidden flutes will allow the player to skip almost the entire game! This use can also be exampled simply by referring to most FPS games, when a player explores an area many times they are rewarded with more ammo or heatlh.

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