Shared <a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-resources.html>Resources</a>

Shared Resources

The players, or some of the players, have at least potential access to the same resources.

Some games have resources that are not divided explicitly to individual players but are instead Shared Resources. There are two basic types of Shared Resources: initially (or potentially) shared and continuously shared. Initially Shared Resources is a weak form of this pattern where the ownership of the resources are not determined to begin with and players can in later phases of the game claim the ownership of these resources. Continuously Shared Resources are those where all players, or a designated group of players, can all make use of the resources throughout the whole game without being able to directly hinder each other from using the resources. It is, of course, possible to have hybrids of these two basic types.

Example: the ammunition, health, and armor pick-ups in multiplayer first-person shooters are initially Shared Resources as all players have equal access to them before they are picked up.

Example: the railroad tracks in TransAmerica are continuously Shared Resources. Once laid down on the game board they are beneficial for all players who have a connection to the tracks.

Using the pattern

The two different types of Shared Resources depend on whether is possible to claim Ownership of the Resources or not: it is possible to claim Ownership of initially Shared Resources, but not of continuously Shared Resources. Initially Shared Resources can be used with almost any kind of Resource from simple Pick-Ups to Area Control but in order to have Cooperation between the players they need other incentives also. In these cases Shared Resources only heighten the level of Cooperation. The continuously Shared Resources, however, are slightly trickier to introduce to the game and are usually a basic or a background Resource used to create Individual Rewards for the players.

For all Shared Resources an important design choice is to determine who of the players have access to them and also what the ways and methods to access them are. The ammunition Pick-Ups scattered among the battlefield in first-person shooters are simple to access: the players just have to pick them up. The initially Shared Resources are often used this way as subgoals within the game and may give rise to Race or Exploration goals. These access control mechanisms are built into the normal game but it is also possible to include more elaborate mechanisms. For example, only the members of a specific guild in a MMORPG can have access to the Pick-Ups in guild houses and only the members of the same team can use the team specific health and ammunition Chargers in Battlefield 1942. The same principles of control mechanisms apply to continuously Shared Resources. Information, for example Strategic Knowledge, form a special category of Shared Resources since it can be shared infinitely without being lost to the original owner.

One way to help the formation of Social Organizations within a game environment is to use Shared Resources to threaten players with Shared Penalties or to create Social Dilemma situations. One example of Social Dilemmas is the case called the tragedy of the Commons. In these there are continuously Shared Resources, which are at the same time Limited Resources, but they are used to yield Individual Rewards for players. Unless there are Resources and Rewards to create situations where Cooperation would be beneficial for all involved players there is incentive to overuse the Limited Resources to reap even greater Individual Rewards even though the long-term rewards may be smaller. These situations promote the creation of Social Organizations to govern the use of the Resources.

Completely Shared Resources between players is a trivial way of achieving Symmetric Resource Distribution between them.


Shared Resources, especially continuously Shared Resources, promote Cooperation and Negotiation within games where the players have Team Play or Mutual Goals, and thereby promote Social Interaction. They also make all Penalties concerning them into Shared Penalties. Where the Shared Resources are only initially shared, or where players have Individual Rewards, the acquirement of the Resources instead promote Competition and Tension, and players can perceive they have a Time Limit to gain or claim Ownership of the Resources and that they are in a Race with other players.


Instantiates: Social Dilemmas, Social Interaction, Exploration, Negotiation, Tension, Competition, Race, Time Limits, Symmetric Resource Distribution

Modulates: Ownership, Resources, Penalties, Cooperation, Social Interaction, Social Organizations, Alliances, Shared Penalties, Shared Rewards

Instantiated by:

Modulated by: Mutual Goals, Team Play, Strategic Knowledge

Potentially conflicting with: