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Overview

Lava is rock which has been heated to a temperature of roughly 1,300 - 2,200 °F (700 - 1,200 °C) that flows over a planet's surface after escaping the planetary crust. The most common locations of lava activity are volcanoes, which can force lava hundreds of feet into the air during a strong eruption.

Varieties

Lava can be composed of many different types of minerals, and can have different viscosities depending on the composition and temperature. The three basic types of lava include:

Silicic: This variety, also called Felsic, is very viscous and has a comparatively low temperature. Its usual mineral composition includes aluminium, silica, potassium, calcium, and sodium. This mineral balance causes its high viscosity, and keeps the temperature at around 1,200 - 1,400 °F, although unusually hot Silicic lava flows have occurred.

Andesitic: Andesitic, or Intermediate lava, is lower in aluminium and silica and richer in magnesium and iron. This allows temperatures of 1,400 - 1,800 °F and gives it lower viscosity.

Basaltic: Also called Mafic, this lava is usually 1,800 °F or above. It is even lower in aluminium and silica, and even higher in iron and magnesium than Andesitic lava. Because of the mineral composition and the extreme heat, viscosity is low, allowing for extensive lava flows.

Lava In Games

Rivers of lava continue to be a staple environmental hazard throughout many video games.

Often encountered in platforming titles, lava is usually a death-upon-contact hazard, as it is a commonly understood danger. It features prominently in "fire levels", another staple of platform and exploration games like the Super Mario Brothers and Legend of Zelda series.

It is also often used to keep players contained to the intended gameplay area, such as in Quake, and Unreal.

Lava can have other uses in games too, beyond simply being an insta-kill trap or impassable barrier:

  • In Terraria, lava's liquid flowing properties can be exploited by a savvy player should they dig far enough down to encounter some. Normally, this involves digging tunnels under one's feet to funnel the lava to a less crucial area so that the player might pass. The player can also use flowing lava to eliminate some enemies (the enemies in the deeper Hell regions are immune to this tactic, however). Lava can also be combined with water to create Obsidian, a very durable resource that requires a high-level pickaxe to mine. Should enough water simply be poured over a large pool of lava, then the entire surface of that pool becomes Obsidian and therefore safe to walk over.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, another game based on world-crafting, lava can be used as an effective siege weapon should the player manage to create a sluice system and position it over the entrance to their fortress. Since lava destroys enemies, dwarves, resources and greenery with equal prejudice, proper care must be taken to ensure this lava trap does not get out of hand once released. Ingenuity is simply yet another way to wipe out the population of a dwarf fortress.
  • In Populous and many other God Sim games where the player controls a deity with power over nature, lava and volcanoes can be summoned as a powerful destructive force to eliminate enemies. Like with Dwarf Fortress, the sheer devastation left behind can make rebuilding the same area quite dangerous.
  • From Dust uses the tropes of many God Sim games to create its puzzles. Among with many other types of land features, the player is able to use lava from any local volcano. Lava has the property of rapidly cooling into immutable stone once removed from its source, creating natural barricades to prevent tsunamis from washing away villages or people. Dropping the lava ball in or near a village will destroy it, however, so precision is required when crafting these walls.
  • In the Metroid series, lava is a natural trap until Samus receives the Varia Suit, which either eliminates or vastly reduces the harm lava and extremely high temperatures would normally cause to her. In this case, instead of being the usual permanent insta-kill barrier, it is simply another obstacle that can be overcome with the correct technology.

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