Collaborative Actions

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Compound actions that require several agents to perform specific individual actions for them to occur.

Some effects in games require several players to do act together for them to take place at all. These actions are called Collaborative Actions since the players are either actively collaborating or can be seen to do so by others even if the players themselves are not aware of it.

Examples

One of the simplest cases of Collaborative Actions is found in Tug of war since both teams need to coordinate their efforts to be more efficient than the other.

The computer game Tekken Tag Tournament in the Tekken series allows players in the Pair Play Mode to performed special combination maneuvers by switching which player is active in th middle of attacks. Team Fortress Classic allows players to get their avatars to places normally not available but standing on each others shoulders, building `human' pyramids. Further, computer-based games can easily let players not close to each other in the game still perform Collaborative Actions. For example, affecting the opposing teams tick counter in the Battlefield series requires one team to by in control of a majority of the existing flag points, something that can only be done by several players working together.

The group of characters used in Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game can be considered the result of Collaborative Actions since they cannot be chosen independently - the choice of one player can remove the possibility for the next player to select characters from whole categories of characters.

Using the pattern

Collaborative Actions require that the players are able to combine their actions, either to perform the together at a certain time or by having individual actions some people support other players' to do actions that otherwise would not be possible. When designing Collaborative Actions in games the following things have to be taken into account: how much Coordination is required between the players; how the outcome of the action is based on the precision and type of the Coordination; how are the possible rewards shared and in which way; how different are the actions required; and how is the Coordination is made possible as in, for example, Player Decided Results. Note that Collaborative Actions do not need to include Cooperation; Bidding, Drafting, and Trading are compound actions requiring many players actions with affect and require each other without the players cooperating.

The individual actions that create Collaborative Actions do not explicitly need to be designed to do so since they can be achieve through Emergent Gameplay. But when they are wished to be more explicitly designed, they can be create to require two or more actions to be performed simultaneously or by requiring several specific game elements with Asymmetric Abilities to perform different actions. The first case can be instantiated by having several Incompatible Goals that have to be completed at the same time, for example holding several Check Points at once. Other examples of designed Collaborative Actions include Negotiation, especially in the form of Trading. Ganging up is a form of Collaborative Action that is typically used to gain tactical advantages in Combat but can be found in any Competition situation where players may decide to act together against perceived leaders, creating a form of Balancing Effects.

Collaborative Actions are often used in games supporting Teams so that not only do players have Mutual Goals but that working together is more efficient than working alone. As simple way of achieving this is by making Team Combos possible. While Shared Rewards can be used in any game to encourage players to start Collaborative Actions, the use of Shared Penalties can make the completion of actions into Committed Goals.

To provide more Complex Gameplay, Collaborative Actions can have Delayed Effects. Besides requiring more Coordination this also opens up for Betrayal since individual actions can be hidden. Enforced Player Anonymity can likewise encourage Betrayal but also ensure that the actions are not based on anything not provided by the game. Making Collaborative Actions only benefit one player, i.e. making any possible Reward a Individual Reward, typically makes the agents that help fulfill the action to assume that it is a case of Delayed Reciprocity due to Delayed Effects (which also creates more Complex Gameplay). As with any other type of actions, Collaborative Actions can be made into Extended Actions to provide more Challenging Gameplay.

Stretching the definition of agents, players may be able to do Collaborative Actions on their own when they control several Units, but this requires Attention Swapping.

Interface Aspects

Games that wish to encourage Collaborative Actions may require Game State Indicators or Game State Overviews to let players know what other players are doing, or at least the effects of players actions (e.g. holding flag points in the Battlefield series). By doing so, they can provide Perceivable Margins as support Cooperation. Games designed to make the Collaborative Actions between stranger through the use of Enforced Player Anonymity of course also need to mediate the interaction so players' identifies cannot be determined.

Consequences

Collaborative Actions is one way to achieve Cooperation in games, although it Bidding, Drafting, and Trading shows that this is not always the case. Further, observers may see Collaborative Actions as Cooperation where the people doing the actions do not, e.g. those excluded from Trading may feel those Trading are cooperating against them. When Collaborative Actions are performed they often are a display of Team Accomplishments, especially when they provide new Abilities to players or can also be seen as forms of Combos done by several players, Avatars, or Units rather than one. However, performing Collaborative Actions often requires the players to engage in Negotiation as an Extra-Game action and they also often needed Timing. All this provides Stimulated Planning and Constructive Gameplay, as well as making Social Interaction necessary. Being able to coordinate Collaborative Actions is thus often a basis for Gameplay Mastery in games where they are possible, especially so in games where Teams match up against each other. A basic consequence of Collaborative Actions is to make for more Complex Gameplay simply because having to work together to do something that just being able to do it oneself adds complexity regarding Negotiation, Coordination, and Timing.

Even if Collaborative Actions may let players do things they otherwise could not, they in one sense modulate their Freedom of Choice since they require Coordination This is especially true when the Collaborative Actions are also Extended Actions, in which case the actions can be seen as a form of Committed Goals. Similarly, Collaborative Actions do not have to be made by means of formalized Teams, but performing them at least creates Dynamic Alliances while the actions are being performed. They can be encouraged by Shared Rewards or Player-Decided Distributions. Collaborative Actions where the possible Rewards is only one Individual Reward to a single player can give rise to Delayed Reciprocity and by that also Betrayal. When the outcomes are more complex, e.g. allowing Rewards for some players and Penalties for others, this can easily create Social Dilemmas for those involved.

When the Collaborative Actions are created by placing Cards or Chips, this can support Anonymous Actions, and this can made more efficient with adding Random actions to the mix.

Relations

Can Instantiate

Abilities, Asymmetric Abilities, Balancing Effects, Combos, Complex Gameplay, Constructive Gameplay, Coordination, Cooperation, Dynamic Alliances, Extra-Game Actions, Gameplay Mastery, Negotiation, Player-Decided Distributions, Shared Penalties, Shared Rewards, Social Dilemmas, Social Interaction, Stimulated Planning, Team Accomplishments, Timing

with Cards or Chips

Anonymous Actions

with Delayed Effects or Delayed Reciprocity

Betrayal, Complex Gameplay

with Delayed Effects and Individual Rewards

Delayed Reciprocity

with Shared Penalties

Committed Goals

Can Modulate

Competition, Freedom of Choice, Teams

Can Be Instantiated By

Bidding, Drafting, Emergent Gameplay, Incompatible Goals, Negotiation, Team Combos, Trading

Attention Swapping together with Units

Can Be Modulated By

Delayed Effects, Enforced Player Anonymity, Extended Actions, Game State Indicators, Game State Overviews, Individual Rewards, Player Decided Results, Randomness

Possible Closure Effects

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Potentially Conflicting With

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History

An updated version of the pattern Collaborative Actions that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[1].

References

  1. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.

Acknowledgements

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