Character Development

Character Development

The improvement of characters' skills or knowledge.

Games with characters that can change offer chances for Character Development. This can either be in the form of becoming more likely to succeed with actions, or make actions that were previously unavailable possible. The changes can either be described as improvements in skills or changes in attitude toward other characters and the Game World.

Example: The characters in The Sims have a range of skills and jobs as explicit values of Character Development. Other values such as the relationships between characters can be used by the player to read emotional or social character development into the characters, but this is not supported by the game system.

Example: The Tamagochi toys can be said to allow players to influence the virtual pets in the game to have Character Development.

Example: Some tabletop roleplaying games use skill improvements as a measure of Character Development. In these cases, it is common with progressively slower advancement and diminishing return for trying to raise the skill; a common way of achieving this is to require a roll above the skill level to increase the skill level.

Example: Character levels associated with skill improvements are a general way of measuring Character Development. These levels are typically raised by gaining experience points and give the players' characters more hit points and abilities.

Using the pattern

Character Development is defined by two characteristics: what caused the development and what effect the development has. Common causes for Character Development are from parts of Rewards or Investments. The latter is usually done by various forms of Collecting to complete Gain Competence goals and may be Planned Character Development if players had the Freedom of Choice to create Player Defined Goals. If the effects of Rewards that give Character Development were known before they were received, they may also give these goals but are more likely to be part of the unfolding of a Narrative Structure.

Character Development usually takes the form of New Abilities or Improved Abilities, which either expands a Limited Set of Actions or increases Skill levels. The introduction of New Abilities or Improved Abilities can over time produce Paper-Rock-Scissors to give Varied Gameplay between playing different Characters. More uncommon changes due to Character Development are Ability Losses and Extra-Game Consequences, the latter of which can be evident only in the Narrative Structure or purely affect how the Avatar is represented. Character Development, especially of Skills, can be limited by Balancing Effects such as Diminishing Returns to modulate the increase rates over time; for example, skill increases happen often when one is a novice in the skill and happen rarely when one is an expert.


Character Development is a way to make Characters advance the Narrative Structure of a game. The actual development can be done by explicitly affecting the characters possibilities to influence the game state, for example, by Privileged Abilities, New Abilities, or Improved Abilities, or by modifying the characters relations to other parts of the Game World. The latter may explain Ability Losses, for example, not being able to attack innocent bystanders, as a positive development within a Consistent Reality Logic. By changing how the Character can interact within the game, Character Development promotes Varied Gameplay, for example, by changing how Roleplaying the Character should be done. Character Development that allows Varied Gameplay or affects the chances of performing actions can modulate players' Perceived Chance to Succeed but risks losing Player Balance.

Character Development between game and play sessions are handled by Trans-Game Information that not only passes the original Character between the sessions but can also introduce changes. This happens intuitively in games with Persistent Game Worlds where the lifetime of Characters in general is long enough for reasonable Character Development.


Instantiates: Player Defined Goals, Paper-Rock-Scissors, Varied Gameplay, Extra-Game Consequences, Perceived Chance to Succeed, Improved Abilities

Modulates: Avatars, Consistent Reality Logic, Narrative Structures, Persistent Game Worlds, Roleplaying, Characters

Instantiated by: Gain Competence, New Abilities, Skills, Ability Losses

Modulated by: Rewards, Collecting, Planned Character Development, Diminishing Returns, Balancing Effects, Freedom of Choice, Investments, Privileged Abilities, Trans-Game Information

Potentially conflicting with: Player Balance