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<a novref=true text=@key href=pattern-resources.html>Resources</a>


Game elements that are used by players to enable actions in a game.

Resources are the representation of a commodity that is used in the game to fund actions or is depleted by other players' actions. The commodity may exist as a physical game element or as a purely virtual one, or change between both. Common Resources in computer games include health and ammunition in first-person shooters, money and units in real-time strategy games, hit points and mana points in roleplaying games, action points in turn-based games, and players and money in sport management games.

Example: The board game Space Hulk gives each unit a number of action points at the beginning of a turn. These points are a form of Resources that pay for the actions of the units.

Example: Victoria is an example of a computer game with complex use of resource refinement, for example producing a Tank unit in the game requires the production of the Tank commodity. This commodity, in turn, requires Resources that are refined from other Resources, et cetera.

Using the pattern

The primary question regarding a Resource is what it is used for. Generalizing, a Resource is used to win a comparison with other players in an evaluation function or can sometimes be converted into actions (possibly providing Privileged Abilities) or other more valuable Resources. Resources are typically used or consumed by paying for actions through Budgeted Action Points, becoming part of objects built through Construction actions, or being destroyed due to Damage. Other actions that require the use of Resources are Aim & Shoot and Betting.

When Resources can be used for several different purposes, for example, as Budgeted Action Points, they can be used to modulate the Right Level of Complexity and force players to make Tradeoffs. Examples of games using one Resource for multiple purposes include the board game Carolus Magnus, where markers can be used to strengthen a fractions control over an area or the players control over the fraction, and the card game San Juan where each card represents a good, a colonist, money, and a building.

After determining the use of a Resource, the next question is how players gain access to the Resources. Players may start with Non-Renewable Resources to promote Stimulated Planning for the whole game session, actions may be require to collect the Resources from the Game World, Resource Generators, or Chargers, or the Resources may be rewards for completing certain goals. Regardless of how players achieve the Resources, the game may be set up to promote either Symmetric Resource Distribution or Asymmetric Resource Distribution to enforce different strategies and Varied Gameplay. However, Asymmetric Resource Distribution may negatively affect Player Balance, unless used in a controlled fashion to provide Handicaps. Goals that give Resources as Rewards are in most cases Supporting Goals. In addition to completing goals and Collecting them, players may be able to redistribute Resources among them through actions such as Trading and Bidding.

The Resources available at the beginning of game play may be the only resources that exist, or they may be Renewable Resources. In the latter case, they may be produced from Resource Generators, handed out at regular time intervals, or be Rewards for completing goals. All these options are examples of how Producers can create Resources, and together with how the Resources are consumed, they form Producer-Consumer patterns. When the resources are collected from the Game World, several additional design choices are required, including the location of the Resources, who can see them, and whether there are Clues to where they can be found. Are they Secret Resources that are hidden by Fog of War or can they only be detected by Privileged Abilities? Are they Rewards for finding Easter Eggs? Do they appear in different amounts or concentrations? What time is required to collect them? What game elements can collect them? Does the possession of them affect game element characteristics? Are they physical entities in the game and, if so, can they be converted to virtual ones? Do players have influence over how they are divided between players through Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties?

Once possession of a Resource is achieved, does it need to be stored in a Container, and is there a maximum of how much of a resource that can be stored? Does the Resource need to be used before a certain Time Limit has expired? Can the Resources be lost as an effect of Penalties?

The next question is how control of resources is decided. Is it a Shared Resource whose use several players need to agree upon through Negotiation, or is it manipulated by all players through Indirect Control? Is the ownership changeable, i. e., can other players steal Resources by various actions that have Transfer of Control effects, or can the players change Resources through Trading? When Resources are contested but also used to produce Units, the struggle for Resources can become a Red Queen Dilemma where gaining control over larger amounts of Resources can only be achieved by consuming larger amounts of Resources.

In games where several different types of resources are used, knowing how and when to convert one form of resource to another may be part of the Strategic Knowledge of the game. The conversion may have inefficient exchange rates (by use of Diminishing Returns), may require access to a Converter, or may only be possible through Trading with other players.

Resources usually have to fit within the Consistent Reality Logic of the game, the main exception being Time Limits to prevent Analysis Paralysis and Resources that are primarily used to determine winning conditions. In this light, the concept of Score can be seen as a Resource, which is used to determine the winner of a game.

Units are common Resources in god games. The games Lemmings and Pikmin both make use of different types of Units that players have to direct to achieve goals while making Tradeoffs between various actions and what Units to use. The equivalent to these Resources in games using Avatars is Lives.

The introduction of Time Limits or The Show Must Go On in games makes time a Resource that has to be used efficiently. The computer game Space Hulk uses two modes of play: a strategic mode, where nothing happens but which is time limited, and a real-time mode, where the Time Limit is replenished but commands cannot be given to Units, to force players to promote Tension together with Stimulated Planning.


Resources provide players with quantifiable measures to judge their progress and plan possible future actions, and thereby provide one way for players to have Emotional Immersion in games. The Resources can either exist from the beginning of gameplay or be created through Producers, and are either destroyed by Consumers, transformed through Converters, or part of Closed Economies. Games where the goal consist of Collecting various types of Resources can use the number of owned Resources as a Score, and in games that have a separate Score system, Resources are often used as a second order Score system to function as Tiebreakers. The presence of Resources in Game Worlds can motivate Area Control goals and Exploration goals in the case of Secret Resources. Resources are often also used to give Characters acting as Consumers or Converters the ability to perform actions. In some games, the distribution of Resources between players decides the order of Turn Taking.


Instantiates: Strategic Knowledge, Stimulated Planning, Penalties, Red Queen Dilemmas, Score, Varied Gameplay, Tradeoffs, Easter Eggs, Rewards, Collecting

Modulates: Exploration, Emotional Immersion, Player Balance, Construction, Tiebreakers, Area Control, Turn Taking, Characters, Game World, Supporting Goals, Player-Decided Distribution of Rewards & Penalties

Instantiated by: Time Limits, Units, Clues, The Show Must Go On, Lives, Budgeted Action Points, Indirect Control, Score

Modulated by: Damage, Aim & Shoot, Shared Resources, Bidding, Time Limits, Resource Generators, Trading, Closed Economies, Consumers, Chargers, Producers, Asymmetric Resource Distribution, Container, Secret Resources, Non-Renewable Resources, Renewable Resources, Limited Resources, Ownership, Transfer of Control, Handicaps, Diminishing Returns, Betting, Producer-Consumer, Investments, Symmetric Resource Distribution

Potentially conflicting with:

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(C) Æliens 04/09/2009

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