I remember an old Sega or Nintendo castle game where the whole board was black and in order to see the overview of the level you had to move your guy around and "discover" it square by square.

Could anyone either a) cite games that use this technique or b) give an indication as to what this technique might be called?

3 Answers 3


This is going to vary wildly game by game, but the general concept you seem to be referring to is known as "Fog of War".

Wikipedia defines it as:

The term "fog of war" has become jargon in military and adventure video and computer games, in the more limited sense of enemy units or characters being hidden from the player. Often this is done by obscuring sections of the map already explored by the player with a grey fog whenever they do not have a unit in that area to report on what is there. The player can still view the terrain but not any enemy units on it.

When it applies to minimaps in particular (the entire Metroidvania genre springs to mind), I'm not sure if it has a precise analog, but Fog of War definitely describes the nature of the phenomenon, at least.

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    I think the OP is referring to areas not already explored. The Fog of Lack of Maps or something :P Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 8:15
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    @MatthewRead I'm not sure how the answer doesn't say that - the Fog of War is the "Fog of Lack of Maps". Depending on the game, the Fog may be completely black, greyed-out and lacking units or some combination of the two. Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 9:00
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    Age of Empires used the term to describe both types of 'fog'. I'm sure it is an abuse, but that doesn't mean it isn't in common usage. Dictionaries use common usage to define words, and I'm inclined to agree with their centuries-old methodology. If they ran on "whether or not it is an abuse of the word/phrase" they would not be nearly as useful. Commented Jan 29, 2012 at 13:24
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    "Fog of War" refers to the fact that you can't see what's going on in a part of the map unless you currently have vision of that part (through a minion, a scan, or something else). This question is asking about the fact that the map is all black until you've explored it once. Then you have knowledge of the last state of that section's landscape, but perhaps not necessarily (due to Fog of War) knowledge of its current situation. An example of games that have this, but not Fog of War, are Heroes of Might & Magic II and III.
    – Kyralessa
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 23:44
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    @Kyralessa I'd still call it fog of war - Command and Conquer: Red Alert is like that, and that's where I first remember learning about the term. Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 0:41

In Age of Empires, this was referred to as the Fog of War (see Raven Dreamer's answer), and this is the most common name given to it. Age of Empires had two types of Fog of War (like most games that feature it) - one which would obscure enemy units and dim the map slightly, and one which was completely black. The completely black version is what you're referring to, and it is still called the Fog of War.

Games that feature it (to my knowledge) are mostly in the RTS genre, here are a few examples:

  • Age of Empires series
  • Command and Conquer series
  • Warcraft series
  • World of Warcraft (to an extent - world map has it but minimap doesn't, there are addons that reveal the world map before it has been explored too)
  • Elder Scrolls series (not sure about Skyrim though, I've not played it yet)
  • Baldur's Gate series
  • Diablo series
  • Most so-called "rogue-like" games
  • Sid Meier's Civilization series

That's all I can think of right now, but there are literally hundreds more. Pretty much anything that's either RTS, TBS, RPG or Adventure. I don't think any list on SE would be comprehensive enough.

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    Anything that calls itself a "Roguelike game"? Nope. Don't overgeneralize. There are roguelikes without fog of war, and its not a defining feature that makes a game roguelike. 100 Rogues is one, and I think dungeons of dredmore is another.
    – Lawton
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 12:37
  • Very true, Lawton. Most rogue-like games do have it though. Modifying answer to be more accurate. Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 14:37

I would call it Automaping.

Original text-based adventure games had no mapping at all; players were expected to make their owns maps with a pen and paper. (NORTH leads to the FIELDS, etc)

Some games added automapping, where the game would create a map for you in game keeping track of where you had been. It wouldn't generate a map for places you hadn't been yet.

Fog of war normally refers to the fact that once you have left an area, you aren't sure that nothing has changed. This is frequently shown in games with a light grey fog overlaid on the area to warn you that enemy units might be there.

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