Having a Score value for each player allows the players to easily determine the leader or the winner of the game; the Score value also allows players to compare Scores between different games and to calculate outcomes of tournaments. Many games give players several different ways to gain Score points to promote different tactics.
Example: Pac-Man gives players three different possibilities to gain points: eating pills, capturing ghosts while under the effect of a power pill, or collecting the bonus object when it appears. The player's Score is shown in the upper part of the screen next to the current high Score.
The two fundamental choices to be made when creating a Score system is first to determine which actions or goals give points and then to decide how large these amounts are. Examples of simple scoring goals include reaching a Pick-Up first (thus modulating a Collecting activity or a Gain Ownership goal) or successfully completing a Dexterity-Based Action or an action requiring Timing. More complex scoring goals can depend on the distribution of Resources between the players or completed Collections. In games with Role Reversal, different possibilities to Score may exist for different roles, but the use of Score can provide players with means to continue striving towards goals independent of their current role. The possibility of using Tiebreakers, commonly another form of Score systems, should also be considered when designing a Score system, as Score systems usually allow for Tied Results unless explicitly designed to make them impossible.
Besides affecting Player Balance, the choice of actions and goals that give points can be used to control the overall flow of the gameplay during a game session. This can be done by giving different points for the same achievements depending on when in the game it is achieved, which will encourage the players either to haste or wait; to reward certain types of actions and goals, e. g., Eliminate goals and Player Elimination; or to reward the use of actions requiring Non-Renewable Resources to limit the players' Freedom of Choice as the game progresses.
Another important consideration is to determine whether the Scores of the players are Symmetric Information that should, or should not, be available to all players. If the Score values themselves are known, they provide a Game State Overview and can give rise to Dynamic Alliances where the players actively work together against the leader, thereby achieving a Balancing Effect. However, this can cause Analysis Paralysis and prevents the Tension of not knowing who the leader is and the possible Surprise of an unpredicted winner.
One simple way of letting players of Single-Player Games compete against themselves or each other is to let them compare Scores. The typical way to explicitly support this in games is to use High Score Lists. As this requires that the game is played several times, such designs promote Replayability.
Having Scores in games can be seen as an instantiation of an abstract Race. When outcomes are determined by who first reaches a certain Score, this creates a normal Race, but when outcomes are based on having the highest Score, the goal of achieving this becomes a Continuous Goal. The Score is used this way as both Progress Indicator and Status Indicator.
The use of a Score system promotes Stimulated Planning as players, given sufficient information, can calculate numerically optimal tactics not only for themselves, but also for the other players. Score is typically the information from a game state that can be used as Trans-Game Information or provide Extra-Game Consequences in Meta Games such as Tournaments and Highscore Lists. It can also be used to give Handicaps by giving some players a bonus to their Scores. Some games use the Score as a Resource to perform actions, for example, to determine order in Turn Taking, while others base Scores on Resources, and completely linking Score to Resources is possible. This requires the players to see these kinds of actions as Investments and make Risk/Reward calculations, especially in games, which are parts of Meta Games.
Instantiates: Continuous Goals, Meta Games, Status Indicators, Stimulated Planning, Trans-Game Information, Race, Investments, Dynamic Alliances, Balancing Effects, Tied Results, Replayability, Extra-Game Consequences, Progress Indicators, Resources, Game State Overview, Collecting
Instantiated by: Resources
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