They consists of a number of variables.
- A name, which is not always unique.
- A region to which they belong.
- A 'Terrain block' that is used as the underlying territory.
- A number that determines whether the instance is a staging or a combat area — staging areas are persistent, massively multiplayer, and can have multiple districts; combat areas are instanced and contain only the player characters that entered at creation of the instance.
- A set of objectives in some of them (see mission.)
- A long list of entities that are to 'spawn' in them.
Quests can further affect the entities that spawn.
Zoning and rezoning
Refers to moving into a new zone. Rezoning refers to leaving a zone and immediately reentering. This has the following effects:
- Health and energy are fully restored
- Any dead party member or pets are resurrected.
- All bundles are removed.
- Any minions are destroyed.
- Both zones are recreated (which re-populates foes, redistributes bosses and chests, and resets any unfinished quests).
- All effects (hexes, conditions, etc.) are removed from all characters, with two exceptions:
There are several ways to zone:
- Using a portal, from another zone.
- Via map travel to a town or outpost.
- Through an NPC's dialogue option, which can be used to continue a quest, start a mission, or enter an otherwise restricted area.
- Waiting for a timer to expire, when starting a mission, completing certain missions, defeating a dungeon boss or boss-like foe, or ending a PvP match.
- By using the /resign special command, which, when used by all players in the party, allows the leader to return the party to the last visited outpost/town.
- There are various types of zones
- Staging area - a place you can meet other random players, divided into districts
- Instanced area - a place where your party gets a unique instance of the game
- Explorable area - a map instance where you can kill monsters, vanquish, or complete quests
- Mission area/instance - Some missions have an exclusive map, other missions share the same terrain with explorable areas.
- Quest instance - while most quests simply take place in an explorable area with additional NPC/monster/objects spawned, some quests create a completely new instance sharing only the terrain of the explorable area (similar to missions).
"To zone" means to travel through an area boundary or using the map to go to a new zone. Example: "Everybody ready to zone in?", "Just zone, all the dead players will come back to life." This has the same general meaning as the term rezone, with slightly different usage.