topical media & game development

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Competence Areas

Competence Areas

Players have or can develop an area of specialty within a game.

Games where player cooperate with each other or even with the game system often require different types of skills. When players can train on one particular set of skill this allows them to become specialists with their own Competence Areas.

Example: class-based multiplayer first-person shooters such as Team Fortress Classic or Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory allows players to play one class and develop their expertise as a member of that class.

Using the pattern

Competence Areas require a Multiplayer Game that supports Team Play and Cooperation. Giving players areas of expertise from the beginning of gameplay can be done by Privileged Abilities while Competence Areas can arise from New Abilities or Improved Abilities during gameplay, often implemented as improved or new Skills of Characters. Competence Areas can emerge from open-ended actions such as Construction when they provide Creative Control but is difficult to guarantee by a game design.

When players can affect what abilities they receive during gameplay this allows for Planned Character Development and Team Development, although it might have a negative effect on Team Balance. This allows players to have Varied Gameplay by developing different Competence Areas in different game instances, and can allow Team Balance as players can react to strength of other teams and develop Competence Areas to counter these strengths.


Competence Areas gives games Orthogonal Unit Differentiation and can provide players with Empowerment as well as Social Statuses within Social Organizations. Competence Areas are likely to give rise to Dynamic Alliances in Multiplayer Games unless players are already part of teams. The possibility of Ability Losses in games also makes the loss of Competence Areas possible.

Polyathlons requires players to specialize in a small number of Competence Areas, or be above average in all Competence Areas.


Instantiates: Social Statuses, Game Mastery

Modulates: Dynamic Alliances, Cooperation, Social Organizations, Team Development, Multiplayer Games

Instantiated by: Team Play, Orthogonal Unit Differentiation, Privileged Abilities, New Abilities, Construction, Characters, Skills, Planned Character Development, Empowerment, Creative Control, Polyathlons

Modulated by: Varied Gameplay, Improved Abilities, Team Balance

Potentially conflicting with: Ability Losses, Team Balance

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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