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<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-race.html>Race</a>


The competition between players to be the first to reach a certain goal, often being the first to a certain location following an approved route.

In the context of classical board games, David Parlett [Parlett99] classifies Race s as being games concerned with being the first to get all pieces back home by traversing a linear track in as few turns as possible, using Ludo and Backgammon as examples. Modern board games, for example RoboRally, show examples of how Races can be expanded to include free movement on two-dimensional game areas. Computer-based racing games such as F-Zero GX or Mario Kart Double Dash!! allow players freedom of movement along the width of the track, and sometimes divide the track into several different tracks that offer different difficulties and advantages.

Although the most common type of Race is the one where players try to reach a specific location or place by moving, a Race does not need to depend on a spatial goal. Other possibilities include being the first to gain a competence or arranging game elements in a certain order. More generally in a Race, the players try to reach, or achieve, a certain game state before other players.

Example: In Race s using a linear track, 100 meter dash for example, these winning conditions of the race are easy to describe: the goal game state is to be the first person to physically pass a certain distance marker, and this is to be achieved by running.

Example: The winning condition in Pig (a simple dice game) is to be the first one to Score a predefined amount of points.

Example: The collectable card game ShadowRun uses points; each successfully completed mission gives players points, the number depending on the difficulty level of the mission.

Example: Golf can be seen as a kind of Race. The players try to go through the track in as little game time as possible (bearing in mind that game time in Golf is measured by the amount of strokes).

Using the pattern

Race is a high-level goal that always requires the use of underlying goals to fill in the details of exactly what game state the players are trying to achieve and how the players can proceed to that game state. The most direct type of underlying goal for Race is Traverse, which is the traditional form of a Race, but by using Score, most forms of subgoals can be used to form Races. When several people can complete Gain Competence goals or have Excluding Goals that can be fulfilled at certain locations, this can take the form of a Race that is a Supporting Goal. Players starting with Shared Resources with players can exploit to gain Individual Rewards for Races between the players, for example, claiming Area Control of a previously unclaimed area through Exploration.

The end of a Race can be determined in several ways. The completion of an underlying goal, with Traverse as the prime candidate, can be used to determine the end of a Race, but the use of Time Limit makes the Race a matter of distance rather than of speed. By measuring the duration of activities to determine progress, typically by Score, Races can become Continuous Goals that typically go on until a specific resource, typically fuel or Lives, has been depleted from all players.

Players' feelings of participation in a Race depend heavily on whether they know their position in relationship to the other players. This requires that players have a certain Game State Overview so they can have a Perceived Chance to Succeed, typically Progress Indicators show the progress of all players, but Status Indicators can be used for Races with Continuous Goals. However, if players can perceive that they have very little chance of improving their position, the Race loses its Tension. To avoid this, one can add a Balancing Effect to the game so that trailing players are given various advantages.

The evaluation of who wins a Race when two or more players complete it simultaneously can either be done with a Tiebreaker or allow for Tied Results. Using a Tiebreaker increases the Tension and forces Individual Rewards while Tied Results make Shared Rewards possible.

Racing games that are Real-Time Games commonly use convoluted and winding tracks to add the extra dimension of having to Maneuver, making Strategic Knowledge of the Game World valuable. Requiring players to Maneuver makes skills in Dexterity-Based Actions important and brings in tactical Risk/Reward decisions of how fast the player is willing to speed down a track in relation to his skill.

It is possible to apply Race in almost any kind of game by introducing time as the determining factor of an outcome. All players do not have to start the Race at the same time, making Races possible in both Asynchronous Games and Synchronous Games, as the prime requirements of a Race are that the goals are the same for all players and that the starting conditions are equivalent, with the possible modification of Handicaps. The use of Ghosts allows for the creation of Meta Games that are Asynchronous Games based on merging a game instance with a recorded instance.

Some games, however, are better suited for Races than others, because there are natural possibilities for players to evaluate the distance between their current position, the goal, and the other players' relative positions. The accuracy of this relative position information may change over time varying the player's Anticipation and Tension levels as well as supporting Player Defined Goals. For example, in many racing games players have direct access to the relative position information if other cars are within the field of vision. Otherwise, they have to rely on a track diagram, which gives Imperfect Information through a Game State Overview. When an opponent comes into sight, the goal of overtaking that player becomes significantly more present as the possibilities and progress of the goal become easier to perceive.


A Race gives players Symmetric Goals to strive towards. Further, if the players have means to judge their own progress and to know the progress of the other players through Progress Indicators, a Race promotes Competition and creates a Conflict between the players. Races are usually Excluding Goals through the use of Tiebreakers although Tied Results allow for Shared Rewards.

Traditional Races give rise to Movement in games and are modulated by Movement Limitations of individual players or effects of the environment.


Instantiates: Conflict, Competition, Excluding Goals, Supporting Goals, Movement, Area Control, Symmetric Goals


Instantiated by: Shared Resources, Exploration, Score, Gain Competence, Individual Rewards

Modulated by: Continuous Goals, Time Limits, Status Indicators, Movement Limitations, Handicaps, Interferable Goals, Progress Indicators, Ghosts, Maneuvering, Tiebreakers, Tied Results, Strategic Knowledge, Shared Rewards

Potentially conflicting with:

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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