Continuous Goals

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Goals that require the player to maintain a subset of a certain game state within certain limits.

Goals in games are defined by what goal states players need to achieve. However, some goals require this state (which may not need to be one exact state but rather a small subset of the possible states of the game) for some time. Those that do are Continuous Goals since players not only need to reach an acceptable game state but also continue keeping the game state in an acceptable state until sufficient time has passed.


Multiplayer First-Person Shooters such as Battlefield 1942 have modes where teams score points (or reduce ticks from the opposing team) by controlling strategic locations.

The goal for the king in King of the Hill is to maintain the game state of being the king while the other players have the goal of changing that game state. The same situation appears in Tag, but reversed; the chasing player, "it", has a goal to change the game state by role reversal while the other players try to maintain the state.

Games where players try to avoid detection, e.g. the Thief series and the Assassin's Creed series, provide Continuous Goals in the form of sneaking and stealth.

Using the pattern

There are several ways of creating Continuous Goals. Many other types of goals are by their nature normally continuous, e.g. Area Control, Conceal, Evade, Guard, King of the Hill, Loyalty, Preventing Goals, Races, Reconnaissance, Repeat Combos, Stealth, and Survive. Other emerge from the presence of game elements, e.g. Lives and Units gives players Continuous Goals of not losing these. Games with Scores similarly create a goal for players as long as they play to increase their Scores. Indirect Control of game elements can also give rise to Continuous Goals if several players or Agents compete for the control (that is, they all have the potential for indirectly controlling the game elements). The combination of Extended Actions and Interruptible Actions show how actions in themselves can become Continuous Goals, in this case simply the goals to complete an action. Games with Sustenance Rewards imply a continued need to what the Rewards provides, and this is likely to be the source of a Continuous Goal. Player-Planned Development lets players set goals for themselves and these can be Continuous Goals if they depend on the players not failing with certain things. Diegetic structures in a game can also provide the starting point for Continuous Goals, e.g. that Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences or that players belong to, or have relations to, Factions.

There are two categories of Continuous Goals: those that have a predetermined length of time that they need to be maintained and those that depend on other facts. Members of the first category can be created simply by adding explicit Time Limits to a Continuous Goal but also occur naturally when the length of the current part of gameplay for which the goal is relevant is known. Examples of the latter include Preventing Goals and Survive (as long as there are no Time Limits to the gameplay where the goals are relevant).

Continuous Goals can also be used as building blocks for certain other patterns. For example, Companions are basically Algorithmic Agents that have Continuous Supporting Goals to players' Avatars or Characters. As another case, Continuous Goals that relate to Social Dilemmas and require Negotiation can create Cooperation, Dynamic Alliances, and even Social Organizations.

Encouraged Return Visits can be used to make Continuous Goals have to stretch over several game sessions. This is likely to create more Challenging Gameplay. Rewards and Social Dilemmas can both be modified by linking them to Continuous Goals. In the first case, one way it to provide more or better Rewards the longer the goal has been maintained (typically beyond a certain minimum). In the second case, players may not be able to resolve the dilemma in any definite way but have to handle the dilemma over a longer period of gameplay time.

Check Points and Goal Points can both be added to some Continuous Goals to let players have indications of their progress as well as allowing partial successes of the goals.


Continuous Goals makes goal have Hovering Closures and add Time Pressure to a game. Through this, the pattern also adds Tension. The existence of Continuous Goals may also make players consider Time Limits.


Can Instantiate

Hovering Closures, Tension, Time Limits, Time Pressure

with Algorithmic Agents and Supporting Goals


with Negotiation and Social Dilemmas

Cooperation, Dynamic Alliances, Social Organizations

with Encouraged Return Visits

Challenging Gameplay

Can Modulate

Rewards, Social Dilemmas

Can Be Instantiated By

Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences, Area Control, Conceal, Evade, Factions, Guard, King of the Hill, Indirect Control, Lives, Loyalty, Player-Planned Development, Preventing Goals, Races, Reconnaissance, Repeat Combos, Scores, Stealth, Survive, Sustenance Rewards, Units

Extended Actions together with Interruptible Actions

Can Be Modulated By

Check Points, Encouraged Return Visits, Goal Points, Time Limits

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



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


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