topical media & game development

talk show tell print

pattern(s) / matrix / model(s) / resource(s)

<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-container.html>Container</a>


Container is a game element that can store other game elements.

The simplest Container is a stockpile, which can only store game elements of one kind. The Containers can, however, be more complex and allow different kinds of game elements, even other Containers, to be stored. The Container can either be abstract or represented as elements in the game world, such as crates containing ammunition and health packs in first-person shooters.

Example: the amount of money the player owns in Monopoly is a simple abstract accumulator Container. The same applies to a character's hit points in roleplaying games and health and supply points in some strategy games.

Example: in Civilization the cities are Containers that can store several kinds of different game elements ranging from food to military units.

Example: the player's inventory in most computer roleplaying games is a Container that can store different kinds of game elements, even other Containers such as backpacks and purses.

Using the pattern

The most important things in using the Container is deciding which kinds of Resources the Container can store and what the limit of storage is, if any, of a single Container. The Container can be an abstract element, such as the bank balance in Monopoly or Card Hands and Drawing Stacks in card games, or it can be associated with a specific game element, for example, Strategic Locations such as cities and factories, or concrete Containers such as bags, barrels, and treasures chests in roleplaying and adventure games.

When specifying the limits of the Containers in games where the production of Resources is continuous, especially when using Converters in Producer-Consumer chains, it has to be taken into account what happens to the Resources when the storage limit of the Container is reached. Is the player informed about the overflow and how? Are the Resources just wasted or temporarily stockpiled somewhere else? For example, if the Unit stockpile of a tank factory in a World War II strategy game is full, the factory may simply stop working.

Using the limit in cases where the player has to store Resources in the Container by a direct action is much simpler: the player is just informed that the Container is full and the store action fails. For example, if the player's inventory in a computer roleplaying game is full, the character is not able to carry more items. Other issues regarding the storage limits of the Container are: How is the player informed about the limits of the Container? Can the Container limits be upgraded? Can the Container store several kinds of elements? If so, how the limit specified, by space or mass of units or by some other measure?

Another important point is to define which of the players have access and in which way to the Container, and in which way, that is, how the players can store and withdraw things from the Container.


Containers can be used to regulate the flow of the game, especially if they appear as parts of Producer-Consumer chains with associated Converters. They allow players an additional Freedom of Choice regarding how to use Resources and promote Stimulated Planning by offering additional opportunities for planning the use of Resources. They provide a form of Limited Resources by limiting the amount of Resources players can store. The role of the Container in the regulation, however, is not necessarily as strong as the Producer and Consumer parts of the chain, even though in some cases the control of the Containers is the key to the efficient Resource Management.

Non-player controlled Containers storing Resource, such as barrels and crates in first-person shooters, can be used to achieve partial reinforcement and thus more player involvement in the game. For example, the crates sometimes have ammunition or health packs and sometimes they do not and this creates a situation that the player usually opens all the crates available.


Instantiates: Stimulated Planning, Limited Resources, Freedom of Choice

Modulates: Resource Management, Converters, Resources, Producer-Consumer

Instantiated by: Card Hands, Drawing Stacks

Modulated by:

Potentially conflicting with:

[] readme course(s) preface I 1 2 II 3 4 III 5 6 7 IV 8 9 10 V 11 12 afterthought(s) appendix reference(s) example(s) resource(s) _

(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

You may not copy or print any of this material without explicit permission of the author or the publisher. In case of other copyright issues, contact the author.