topical media & game development

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Diminishing Returns

Diminishing Returns

The returns for similar investments decrease as the player progresses in the game.

To encourage variation in gameplay, many games make player effort have less and less effect after a certain point. This reduction of usefulness in invested actions, Resources, or even display of high skill levels are all indications of Diminishing Returns in the game design.

Example: The potential gains of winning bidding sessions in games have diminishing returns that become more and more apparent the further the bidding session goes on.

Example: In many roleplaying games, raising skills and abilities require more experience points, or other types of investments, for the higher skill and ability levels.

Using the pattern

Diminishing Returns offer a way to modulate Rewards for Investments in addition to Geometric Rewards for Investments and Arithmetic Rewards for Investments, and can be used to modulate these Reward schemes to achieve Player Balance. Implementing Diminishing Returns is simple by just making the Rewards associated with similar Investments smaller as the player progresses in the game. Diminishing Returns can also be used to limit the effectiveness of different means of Renewable Resources in games.


Diminishing Returns naturally modify Player Balance where there is a possibility to advance Skills and receive Improved Abilities of the player controlled Units and Characters, especially in games in which Mules are possible. The advantages for making Investments diminish as the players' progress in the game. At the same time, this creates a practical limit for the progress while keeping the feeling, or in many cases an illusion, of player progress and Character Development. In this case, the Diminishing Returns are a form of Balancing Effect. Diminishing Returns can also be used as a incentive for more Varied Gameplay as the players gain less and less Rewards by performing the same kind of actions and may encourage Transfer of Control of Resources between players.


Instantiates: Player Balance, Balancing Effects

Modulates: Character Development, Resources, Transfer of Control, Investments, Rewards, Varied Gameplay, Skills, Improved Abilities, Renewable Resources, Geometric Rewards for Investments, Mule, Arithmetic Rewards for Investments

Instantiated by:

Modulated by:

Potentially conflicting with: Geometric Rewards for Investments, Arithmetic Rewards for Investments

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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