topical media & game development

talk show tell print

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

Stimulated Planning

Stimulated Planning

Games that encourage players to plan about certain aspects of the game.

Some games provide players with the opportunity to know with some certainty the outcomes of actions and thereby be able to plan what to do thereafter. The certainty of the outcomes and the number of possible future game states after a couple of actions decide if these games can be said to encourage Stimulated Planning amongst players.

Example: Real-time strategy games that provide different types of units and special abilities encourage players to plan how they are going to play before actually starting to play the games.

Example: Games such as Go and Chess that provide players with perfect information and no unpredictability to the effects of actions provide ample support for Stimulated Planning.

Using the pattern

Stimulated Planning requires that players have a Freedom of Choice between different actions and that those actions have Predictable Consequences. Besides making these two requirements exist in a game design, Stimulated Planning requires reasons for doing the planning and means for players to be able to do the planning. Direct Information and Perfect Information supports Predictable Consequences, either by allowing players to know the game state with certainty and thereby the possible actions, or by giving players exact feedback on actions. Symmetric Information can provide players with information about other players' goals and game elements, thereby stimulating planning, with the added feature that players know what other players know. Public Information can provide players with information about other players' goals or tactics, thereby also increasing the possibility of having Predictable Consequences of the players' own actions and tactics. Near Miss Indicators can help players readjust their planning, either by noticing their own failures or by becoming aware of other players' actions. Cut Scenes can provide players with overviews of the challenges they will later face.

Activities that require planning include Resource Management, Puzzle Solving, or completing Stealth goals. Especially Resource Management can provide a great variety of possible actions that can stimulate planning of how to make use of Limited Resources: which Resources and Units should be created by Producers or Converters, what Investments to make, and which Resources should be saved in Containers. Further, many sorts of actions promote planning: Extended Actions may require planning, and plans on when other actions could be started instead of continuing the actions; actions with Delayed Effects may require planning to make full use of Timing, but Timing may also be created by planning; having to choose between possible Rewards; and the long-term consequences of Irreversible Actions may require more planning than other actions. Coordinating activities into Collaborative Actions also requires planning, as does fighting against Enemies with Orthogonal Unit Differentiation or making use of one's own forces with various Privileged Abilities. Any Risk/Reward choices or choices that require Tradeoffs promote Stimulated Planning.

Planning is made possible through providing information to players and giving them the time to use it. Examples of ways players can be supported with Public Information to do planning include Book-Keeping Tokens or other Game State Overviews, public Scores, or open Discard Piles. Turn Taking, Safe Havens, and Ultra-Powerful Events can all give players Downtime, which can be used for Stimulated Planning.

The Right Level of Complexity of Stimulated Planning depends on how many actions and players have to be considered, as well as how far into the future gameplay the planning should be done. Number of players in a game is easy to design, and number of actions can be regulated by Limited Set of Actions. How many actions ahead players can move is more difficult, as players' usually want to plan as far ahead as possible, but can be modulated by Limited Foresight or avoiding too Predictable Consequences from actions. The complexity can be further modulated by requiring players to do Attention Swapping between different areas of gameplay.

Stimulated Planning can be promoted by the Extra-Game Actions of Save-Load Cycles, which allows players to explore the game first and then try to overcome challenges or to do Experimenting.


Stimulated Planning gives players a sense of Empowerment and is the effect of Predictable Consequences and either Freedom of Choice or an Illusion of Influence. The activity of planning also gives Cognitive Immersion but may cause Analysis Paralysis if the Right Level of Complexity is not achieved. Being able to make efficient use of Stimulated Planning without having Analysis Paralysis can be a measure of Game Mastery. Stimulated Planning can also be caused by giving players Creative Control, for example, through Planned Character Development, or by letting them do Experimenting.

When games support planning between game instances or game sessions if players have Strategic Knowledge, this is a form Stimulated Planning through Extra-Game Actions.


Instantiates: Cognitive Immersion, Analysis Paralysis, Empowerment, Timing, Game Mastery

Modulates: Timing

Instantiated by: Direct Information, Extended Actions, Predictable Consequences, Discard Piles, Strategic Knowledge, Collaborative Actions, Score, Safe Havens, Privileged Abilities, Limited Set of Actions, Rewards, Ultra-Powerful Events, Irreversible Actions, Turn Taking, Planned Character Development, Freedom of Choice, Delayed Effects, Experimenting, Creative Control, Tradeoffs, Risk/Reward, Puzzle Solving, Resource Management, Illusion of Influence, Orthogonal Unit Differentiation, Resources, Save-Load Cycles, Extra-Game Actions, Container, Producers, Converters, Book-Keeping Tokens, Game State Overview, Perfect Information, Investments, Units, Cut Scenes, Symmetric Information, Stealth

Modulated by: Attention Swapping, Limited Foresight, Near Miss Indicators, Right Level of Complexity, Public Information, Limited Resources

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.