topical media & game development

talk show tell print

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

<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-helpers.html>Helpers</a>


Helpers are game elements that support the players in completing goals by giving advice or by performing actions which the players are not able to perform. They are not under any players' control, and typically do not move around in the game world.

Example: the rumor spreading non-player characters in Ultima series are sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly giving the player advice on how to progress in the game.

Example: each of the games in The Legend of Zelda series contains several helpers from helpful grandmothers to talking boats.

Using the pattern

The Helpers pattern is a direct subpattern of Clues, and as such the design choices relevant to Clues are relevant to Helpers. However, as Helpers typically are represented as living creatures, they may provide different Indirect Information when interacted with several times. This may range from simply rotating through a couple of answers to provide variation to providing new pieces of information when the previous goals have been completed. Further, game designer have to determine if the players can modify the reaction of Helpers by their actions, e. g. gifts, bribes, threats, or direct attacks. Sometimes Helpers can also act as Tools, for example, the Lion Boat in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker is also the player's main means of transportation. Helpers can be used to create Red Herrings for the players as the information they provide is rarely Direct Information about the game state.

Game elements can change roles between being Helpers and Units due to the actions of the player, and this can be used to create new subgoals for the player. For example, in Baldur's Gate the player can talk to many non-player characters in the game, but some these characters can also be invited to the player's adventuring party, effectively changing their status from being a Helper to being a Unit.


Helpers are game elements in Levels or Game Worlds that provide players with Clues. They can also be used to unfold the Narrative Structure by providing background stories or letting the Helpers change their advice as gameplay progresses.

Like Clues, Helpers can support Smooth Learning Curves while only giving Illusionary Rewards since players may not follow or understand the help or advice they are given.


Instantiates: Indirect Information, Smooth Learning Curves, Illusionary Rewards, Clues

Modulates: Red Herrings, Game World, Levels, Tools, Controllers

Instantiated by:

Modulated by: Direct Information

Potentially conflicting with: Red Herrings

[] 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.