<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-exploration.html>Exploration</a>


The goal of learning the layout of the Game World, or locating specific parts or objects in it.

In games where the whole Game World is not know at the beginning of the game, it is often advantageous to try and acquire this knowledge during gameplay. Typically examples of this use of Exploration can be found in real-time strategy games, first-person shooters, and roleplaying games.

Example: Games in the Civilization series start with the players knowing very little about the Game World. A prerequisite for being able to plan on a higher level against the other players or how to expand one's civilization depends on completing as much Exploration of the world as possible.

Using the pattern

The definition of an Exploration goal is by its nature fuzzy. The player is given the task that there is something important to find in an unknown territory in the Game World, either specific game elements or Strategic Locations, but the exact locations of the Goal Points are not known. However, the exact nature of what is to be found does not have to be explicitly known either, giving game designers two different options for Surprises. Exploration often makes use of Supporting Goals that provide partial information of how to find the main goal of the search.

For Exploration to be used, games need to provide a form of Movement in the game space that in non-linear, so that a player has to decide in which direction to explore. That said, the area to be explored may be predetermined or be created using Randomness or a game board constructed by another player. The latter supports Replayability while the former can more easily provide a Narrative Structure or Surprises.

Resources, Outstanding Features, Obstacles, Traces, and Clues are typically used in designing the Game World to support Exploration and give points of reference. Enemies and Deadly Traps are also commonly used to provide Optional Goals or increase the Tension at certain points. Easter Eggs are special cases that provide extra-game rewardsfor Exploration. The design of the area in which the Exploration goal is situated can be postponed by using Tile-Laying to create the Game World as it is being explored.

Common reasons for Exploration besides explicitly given goals are the known existences of Secret Resources, for example, Resources needed to perform Construction actions. When these Resources are also Shared Resources, they put players in Races against each other. The use of Levels guarantees a form of Exploration goal, since the unvisited Levels are unexplored areas. The knowledge that Resource Generators exist is a motivation for Exploration in real-time strategy games.


Exploration is movement in the Game World with the aim of finding game elements or charting the Game World. It requires Game World Navigation and Memorizing the layout unless some Game State Overview shows the already-explored areas. As Exploration relies upon the environment being unknown to players, it gives players Limited Foresight and can be used to create Surprises. The possibility of Surprises, the feeling of discovering new places, and Illusionary Rewards in the form of aesthetically pleasing Outstanding Features can all give players Emotional Immersion.

Exploration is a special case of combining Traverse and Gain Information and, like the latter, requires either Imperfect Information or Uncertainty of Information. Exploration differs from Reconnaissance in that the places, areas, and area boundaries are not known and the player has to get more information about them when there is Fog of War. Exploration can be used to move players into new game spaces, either to provide Varied Gameplay by the novelty of the area or provide Surprises to put the player at a disadvantage, e. g., by the lack of knowledge of Strategic Location s.

Single-Player Games that support Exploration through Easter Eggs and other Optional Goals offers players the opportunity to trade knowledge between game instances.


Instantiates: Game World Navigation, Uncertainty of Information, Surprises, Traverse, Emotional Immersion, Movement, Race, Gain Information

Modulates: Memorizing, Single-Player Games

Instantiated by: Shared Resources, Limited Foresight, Resource Generators, Secret Resources, Illusionary Rewards, Tile-Laying, Construction, Imperfect Information, Game World

Modulated by: Deadly Traps, Goal Points, Outstanding Features, Obstacles, Traces, Clues, Enemies, Easter Eggs, Surprises, Resources, Fog of War, Game State Overview, Strategic Locations

Potentially conflicting with: Replayability