Varied Gameplay

Varied Gameplay

The game provides variety in gameplay, either within a single play session or between different play sessions.

All games must provide a certain level of Varied Gameplay to be interesting, as the outcome must differ between game instances. However, some games have varying types of actions required in different parts of the game so that players feel that the challenges are qualitatively different. Other games allow players to create characters or select teams with radically different abilities. In both these cases, games provide a greater amount of Varied Gameplay, which not only affects the configuration of the game state but players' gameplay experience.

Example: Roleplaying games, primarily live or tabletop variants but also computer-based variants that provide great freedom for players such as Morrowind or the Fallout series, provide Varied Gameplay between game instances; i. e., how players create their characters strongly affects what kind of gameplay they will have.

Example: Deus Ex was designed to have several ways of completing each level. This allows players to choose between trying to sneak past opposition, openly challenge it, or try to overcome it in indirect ways.

Using the pattern

Varied Gameplay can be designed so that it occurs within a game instance or between game instances. Within a game, Varied Gameplay can be achieved by letting players choose between different goals and by letting players be able to perform different sorts of actions; both alternatives offer players a Freedom of Choice. By gradually increasing the possibility of Varied Gameplay as gameplay progresses, players have not only a large set of actions to choose from later in the game, but the number of possible actions also varies. Between game instances, Varied Gameplay can be achieved by providing players a Freedom of Choice as to what type of Asymmetric Abilities they should have, either by choosing a team or letting players create their own Characters. Social Organizations provide additional actions in games and give players opportunities to plan how to divide the actions, thereby providing Varied Gameplay both within game instances and between them.

Within game instances, there are many ways to create Varied Gameplay, with the variation of goals and variation of actions being the two major categories. Selectable Sets of Goals or Incompatible Goals give players different types of goals to fulfill within the game, while Polyathlon includes goals of trying to win different types of competitions. The completion of Supporting Goals may offer alternative ways of completing goals, for example, exploiting Achilles' Heels. Games within Games can provide completely different gameplay within one and the same game.

Having choices between what actions to perform can be done in several ways: by Budgeted Action Points; by varying how Resources are used, e. g. through Converters and advanced Producer-Consumer chains; by providing sets of Skills; by having Transfer of Control of Tools or Controllers; or by having Units with Orthogonal Unit Differentiation. Dynamic Alliances allow players to vary the other players with whom they collaborate. Even Ability Losses can provide Varied Gameplay as players have to figure out new ways to solve problems or meet familiar challenges.

When designed within a game, the Varied Gameplay can be forced upon players to modulate the Right Level of Difficulty and synchronize the type of gameplay with the unfolding of the Narrative Structure. This is typically achieved by Levels or by Character Development. New Abilities can make it possible for players to directly affect the game state in new ways and thereby provide Varied Gameplay and make Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses.

Varying gameplay between game instances can be done by either changing the Game World or changing players' overarching objectives. The former can be achieved by Reconfigurable Game Worlds, for example, by Tile-Laying, and allows Exploration to coincide with Replayability, while the latter consists of providing players with selections that give them Asymmetric Abilities, Asymmetric Goals, and Incompatible Goals. The selections often take the form of choosing a team, country, or fractions as described by the Alternative Reality or creating a Character with different Privileged Abilities or Skills. Non-Renewable Resources and Diminishing Returns may cause players to have to specialize how they try to achieve goals, or which goals they try to achieve. A simple way to achieve Varied Gameplay--- at least temporarily---is to use dynamically created Red Herrings to distract players and provide some variation to the usual gameplay.

Symmetric Resource Distribution may lessen the impact of both changes to the Game World and players' objectives but is not totally incompatible with Varied Gameplay, since the types and amounts of Resources may change between game instances even though they are symmetrically distributed.

Varied Gameplay is not compatible with extensive, repetitious actions, and this makes games with high degrees of Varied Gameplay difficult to combine with Sensory-Motoric Immersion.


When Varied Gameplay is required to complete a game, it raises the difficulty of achieving Game Mastery, as more skills must be mastered. Varied Gameplay adds value to the Replayability of a game when the variation in gameplay can be selected by players. If the choice is done before gameplay begins, Varied Gameplay offers players the opportunity to develop Competence Areas and lets players have several different types of Game Mastery in the same game. This is often difficult to achieve in simple Quick Games, which are based on the players performing only a few actions.


Instantiates: Replayability, Right Level of Difficulty

Modulates: Competence Areas, Game Mastery, Narrative Structures

Instantiated by: Reconfigurable Game World, Achilles' Heels, Character Development, Asymmetric Abilities, Units, Converters, Resources, Budgeted Action Points, Transfer of Control, Selectable Sets of Goals, Dynamic Alliances, Incompatible Goals, Polyathlons, Levels, Freedom of Choice, Ability Losses, Social Organizations, Games within Games, New Abilities, Asymmetric Resource Distribution, Skills, Orthogonal Unit Differentiation, Tile-Laying, Asymmetric Goals, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Producer-Consumer

Modulated by: Red Herrings, Diminishing Returns, Levels, Characters, Non-Renewable Resources, Supporting Goals

Potentially conflicting with: Quick Games, Sensory-Motoric Immersion, Camping, Symmetric Resource Distribution, No-Ops