<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-combat.html>Combat</a>


Actions where the intent is to kill or otherwise overcome opponents

Symbolizing the actions between game elements in games as Combat is one of the oldest and most common ways to give games themes. By doing so, the theme of the game contains a link with the real-world competition between players as well as alludes to the tension, uncertainty, and importance of the real-world equivalent. Combat in games give players clear goals and opponents and gives clear indication of what players have succeeded and what players have failed.

Example: First-person shooters' main challenge is to kill or otherwise overcome the enemies found in the game.

Example: Fighting games such as the Dead or Alive, Tekken, or Mortal Kombat focus purely on Combat, with Meta Goals of unlocking new characters or new costumes.

Using the pattern

The main influence on designing Combat in games is whether the games are Real-Time Games or Turn-Based Games. In both cases, Combat usually includes Randomness and Imperfect Information in the process to determine the outcome but how these are achieved depend on the type of game. Both types of games also typically provide Privileged Abilities specifically affecting Combat and can have Enemies with Achilles' Heels that provide specific targets to aim for.

In Turn-Based Games the results of Combat are usually based on an evaluation function, as players' skills lies in trying to make the game state have as many modifiers in their favor as possible. Common influences on the evaluation function include Skills, Privileged Abilities, and Collaborative Actions. Budgeted Action Points can be used to allow several Combat actions to be performed in one turn and increase the Tradeoffs between different possible actions in these forms of Combat. Imperfect Information exists mainly due to not knowing the opponents strengths, weaknesses, and configuration, while Randomness is usually instantiated through Dice or the equivalent.

In Real-Time Games, the main difference between design choices for Combat lies in whether players control Avatars or Units. Imperfect Information is often the cause of bad Game State Overview or the problem of perceiving enemy actions as they occur while Randomness occurs due to opponent's guesses to the Imperfect Information they have.

Control of Avatars in Combat requires Timing and Dexterity-Based Actions, typically Aim & Shoot or Combos of close combat maneuvers. Damage in this case is often abstracted to forced retreats, stuns simulated by forced No-Ops, and health values shown by Progress Indicators. If Combat is the only activity in the game, as is the case in fighting games, the Combat is often structured in Tournaments to allow Perceivable Margins and Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses by having more difficult opponents appear later in the Tournament. Fighting Games also often combine loss of Combat with Player Elimination. Games where players engage in activities other than Combat usually make use of Lives and penalize loss of Lives by Ability Losses and Spawning at earlier locations. Real-Time Games with Avatars and Team Play often have special Penalties for team killing or make those events impossible through Privileged Abilities.

Controlling Units require skills in coordinating Collaborative Actions and employing Attention Swapping. Often knowledge of Strategic Locations is important as well as efficient Resource Management. The loss of Units due to Combat in these games do not usually have any specific Penalties connected to them except for the possible Ability Losses if no other still existing Units have the same abilities.


Combat is the means to achieving Capture, Overcome, or Eliminate goals against Enemies and gives rise to Conflict against either other players or Dedicated Game Facilitators. When these goals deal with Area Control, the presence of Combat is especially common since the opposing goalstypically are also achieved by Combat. The actual actions required to successfully win Combat depend heavily on the definitions of how to successfully complete the goals.

Participating in Combat is a Risk/Reward choice as are the Tradeoffs that have to be considered between different possible actions within the Combat.


Instantiates: Attention Swapping, Aim & Shoot, Conflict, Randomness, Imperfect Information, Timing, Player Elimination, Perceivable Margins, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Collaborative Actions, Resource Management, Dexterity-Based Actions, Budgeted Action Points, Risk/Reward, Tradeoffs, Tension


Instantiated by: Eliminate, Capture, Area Control, Enemies

Modulated by: Damage, Turn-Based Games, Dice, Avatars, Units, Lives, Tournaments, Privileged Abilities, Combos, Strategic Locations, Achilles' Heels, Dedicated Game Facilitators, Real-Time Games

Potentially conflicting with: