<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-traces.html>Traces</a>


Traces are game elements, or distinct parts of the game world, that are created when game elements are moved through the environment. Traces can also show what has happened before the gameplay began.

Example: A common example of traces is footsteps left by avatars in first-person shooters when the avatars have passed through water or acid. Other examples include skid tracks in racing games or blood drops in adventure games.

Using the pattern

The appearance of Traces is usually determined by the nature of what or where the Trace was generated, e. g. combat can generate Traces of blood while cars generate skid tracks. Common uses of Traces are to show the Privileged Movement of others, help Game World Navigation, or give indications of Achilles' Heels. However, Traces may also work as Red Herrings that lead to dead ends, either within the Consistent Reality Logic of the game or for the completion of the goals in the game. In the latter case the appearance of the Traces can be more varied.

The functional nature of Traces in a game can be separated into two general classes: those that cannot be manipulated by the players and those that can. The first class solely provides the players with information about what previous actions have happened before and during the gameplay. Those generated before the gameplay typically provide information about Enemies or Puzzles while those generated during the gameplay can also be Traces of other players and often disappear after a certain Time Limit.

Traces which consist of game elements that can be manipulated by the players create additional tactics in games. Players may be able to move the elements to set-up false Traces, i. e. Red Herrings that may led to Deadly Traps, or make Tradeoff decision whether to spend time hiding their own Traces or not.

Traces can also occur through the lack of game elements, e. g. Pick-Ups or Enemies. In these cases the configuration of game elementscan be seen as negative Traces, i. e. the Traces can only be detected because something is lacking or has been changed due to the actions of the players or game events.


Traces are Outstanding Features that can direct the players towards points of interest while hinting at the danger or the reward that can be found there. Thus, Traces can be used as Clues to indicate the presence and location of Resource Locations, Deadly Traps or Enemies but can also be used to create Tension. As finding Traces do not actually have to help players, they can be regarded as a form of Illusionary Reward.

Traces can provide information about how to accomplish Traverse and Exploration goals and thereby set the Right Level of Difficulty. In Reconnaissance goals, the detection of Traces can be the primary subgoal.


Instantiates: Illusionary Rewards, Outstanding Features, Puzzle Solving, Clues

Modulates: Game World Navigation, Pick-Ups, Exploration, Achilles' Heels, Red Herrings, Reconnaissance, Traverse, Privileged Movement, Tension, Resource Locations, Right Level of Difficulty

Instantiated by:

Modulated by:

Potentially conflicting with: Surprises, Red Herrings