Abstract Player Constructs

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The abstract attributes and characteristics associated with a player of a game.

Many games divide gameplay into events taking place in a game world and abstract entities handling attributes and possible actions. Those entities in the latter group that are under player control are Abstract Player Constructs.


The financial empires built and destroyed in Monopoly can be seen as Abstract Player Constructs, consisting of the money and land deeds players have (and the latter may or may not be mortgaged). Grand strategy games such as the Civilization series and the Europa Universalis series let players take control over civilizations or countries.

The empires built in Race for the Galaxy, the colonies constructed in Puerto Rico, the farms developed in Agricola, and the mountain uplifted in Erosion are all Abstract Player Constructs since they are not part of one game world (even if the represent parts of it). Similarly, the abilities developed for species in Ursuppe, Spore, and American Megafauna are Abstract Player Constructs, as are the technologies developed in Origins: How We Became Human.

The people played in Roleplaying Games, e.g. Dungeons & Dragons or GURPS, are Abstract Player Constructs but are usually simply called Characters. The third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay does add another type of Abstract Player Constructs - party sheets representing the type of group the players are and which provides specific abilities to them.

The various "colors" collected in Pik-Min series to create new Pik-Mins is a vital part of a player's current game state, and as associated to him or her an Abstract Player Construct.

Using the pattern

While what types of information is a prime concern for the design of Abstract Player Constructs, a likewise important aspect is how they connect to how players can affect Game Worlds. Scores is one of the most basic pieces of information stored, as is Lives. However, games which challenge players by continuously providing Levels and not using global Scores not putting hard limits on Lives can create a version of Scores by having which Levels players have completed in the Abstract Player Constructs, so the patterns can multiple ways of being able to affect each other.

Characters are a special case of Abstract Player Constructs that are often tied to Avatars. They distinguish themselves from other Abstract Player Constructs in often being more detailed, either to support Emotional Engrossment or being parts of Predetermined Story Structures. Another noteworthy aspect of them is that they are also the most common example, through Non-Player Characters, of abstract constructs that are not under some form of player control. Besides Characters, other examples of ways Abstract Player Constructs can be connected to Game Worlds is how they change the abilities and possible actions of Bases, Installations (see e.g. the Victoria series) or Units (see e.g. Ursuppe).

Typical parts of Abstract Player Constructs include Characteristics such as Attributes (e.g. money and manpower), Privileged Abilities, Resources, Technologies, and other Abstract Player Constructs. The Civilization series is an example of a game that has the last structure - here civilizations are Abstract Player Constructs that contain cities (and Units from the fourth installment of the series) that in turn also are Abstract Player Constructs. While Abstract Player Constructs do not make use of Game Items as regularly as Characters do, it can more often be feasible to make use of Pick-Ups, as for example the collecting of the various "colors" in Pik-Min series shows an example of. Gameplay Engines are basically Abstract Player Constructs focused upon encouraging or supporting Combos, and Pre-Customized Decks allow players to create these before gameplay. These are also an example of how players can be given the possibility of applying Construction on Abstract Player Constructs.

While Abstract Player Constructs may be stored digitally in computer-based games, other games make use of tangible game elements. Character Sheets are common for Characters, but for other types of Abstract Player Constructs an option is using collections of Cards. Examples of games that make use of Cards for this purpose include Race for the Galaxy, Erosion, Ursuppe, American Megafauna, and Origins: How We Became Human. Puerto Rico does the same with Tiles placed on a private game board.

While Abstract Player Constructs in general may not allow the same personalization as Characters, they relatively often support Naming and can often become more powerful during gameplay through Abstract Player Construct Development. There are many options for providing such development, including: Ability Losses, Bag Management, Cards, Characteristics, Deck Building, Decreased Abilities, Improved Abilities, New Abilities, Powers, Technologies, Territories, Tiles, and Units. Such development may give them Competence Areas but these may also be given to the Abstract Player Constructs before gameplay begins. They are also not so often used together with Teams as Characters are, but when they are the same design options as those described under Characters are possible. Maintenance Costs are however a design choice not occurring as often in Characters as in Abstract Player Constructs.

Diegetic Aspects

Somewhat paradoxically, that Abstract Player Constructs do not exist themselves in Game Worlds help provide Diegetic Consistency in these. This since there are many things one cannot directly observe in the real world, and not being able to do this in Game Worlds adds this similarity to a game.

Interface Aspects

The information contained in Abstract Player Constructs can be used to create Gameplay Statistics. One example of how this can be done exists in the ledgers Europa Universalis and Victoria series; these show both current and historical overviews of a country's statistics as well as comparisons to other countries of some types of statistics.

Narration Aspects

While Abstract Player Constructs in themselves do usually not support narratives, this is more common for Characters, the retelling of an Abstract Player Construct Development during a game instance creates a narrative.


Abstract Player Constructs let Game Worlds have more complexity than can be represented by the Game Worlds themselves, and thereby modulate these. When players can have some control and foresight into the Abstract Player Construct Development, this leads to Player-Planned Development (if players have some Freedom of Choice regarding the development) and a way for Player Time Investments. However, games that allow or require players to interact with Abstract Player Constructs often can be perceived as forcing them to engage in Excise. Abstract Player Constructs can easily become reasons for player Tension since the state or development of these often represent the level of success or failure for players.

In Multiplayer Games, Abstract Player Constructs which provide different types of Privileged Abilities create Asymmetric Starting Conditions; this is for example done through the combination of choices regarding leader and civilization in the Civilization series. Providing Asymmetric Starting Conditions for different Abstract Player Constructs, as done in the Europa Universalis and Victoria series, is a way to provide Difficulty Levels but also causes disruptions in Player Balance.


Can Instantiate

Asymmetric Starting Conditions, Diegetic Consistency, Excise, Predetermined Story Structures, Tension

with Ability Losses, Bag Management, Cards, Characteristics, Deck Building, Decreased Abilities, Improved Abilities, New Abilities, Powers, Technologies, Territories, Tiles, or Units

Abstract Player Construct Development

with Abstract Player Construct Development

Player Time Investments

with Abstract Player Construct Development and Freedom of Choice

Player-Planned Development

with Asymmetric Starting Conditions

Difficulty Levels

with Characteristics

Abstract Player Construct Development

with Levels


Can Modulate

Bases, Installations, Game Worlds, Units

Can Be Instantiated By

Cards, Characters, Gameplay Engines, Lives, Pre-Customized Decks, Scores, Teams, Tiles

Can Be Modulated By

Ability Losses, Abstract Player Construct Development, Attributes, Bag Management, Cards, Characteristics, Construction, Competence Areas, Deck Building, Decreased Abilities, Gameplay Statistics, Improved Abilities, Maintenance Costs, Naming, New Abilities, Pick-Ups, Powers, Privileged Abilities, Resources, Technologies, Territories, Tiles, Units

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Player Balance when used together with Asymmetric Starting Conditions


New pattern created for this wiki by Staffan Björk.