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A period of time when an action is not possible to use directly after it has been used.

Games typically provide players with many ways to affect the game state. Not all action possible can however be used all the time, and one way this is done in games is through simply requiring that a certain period of time transpires before the same kind of action is done again. Actions restricted in this way are said to have a Cooldown period, based upon the metaphor of it becoming overheated by being used and requiring some time to cool down again.


World of Warcraft has Cooldowns linked to many spells, abilities, and powers of items. One common example is the Hearthstones players are given which allows them to teleport their home location - these can only be used every 30 minutes. Some of these Cooldown effects apply not only to the ability used but ones related by being provided by similar items or being class abilities.

The fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons make many of the powers players can perform only possible to do once per encounter or day.

Many of the primary attacks that special infected can do in Left 4 Dead series have Cooldown periods associated with them, and this makes players have to consider when to use them.

Using the pattern

Cooldown effects are typically used in games to limit the use of specific actions but can also be used as Energy Penalties. Creating Cooldown in games basically consists of choosing which actions or Abilities should be assigned Time Limits before they can be used again. Since this temporarily gives players Ability Losses or Decreased Abilities, Cooldowns can be seen as a combination of these two patterns. A special case is found in games with Deck Building. This happens when new Cards are put in Discard Piles which, since they most likely won't be drawn to players' Hands immediately, will cause a Cooldown period for these Cards (in this case, acquiring Cards can be seen as a use of them).

Any actions can be the target of Cooldown restrictions, but commonly these are applied to Privileged Abilities (for Balancing purposes), Tools and Installations. A use of Cooldown common in Collectible Card Games is that used Cards are tapped, i.e. turned 90 degrees, to show that they cannot be used again until the recharge (which is typically done at the start of a player's next turn).

Cooldown can be used to link various Game Items together. Shared Cooldowns restricts not only the use of actions just performed but some set of other actions as well, an example from World of Warcraft being that the use of an Earth Elemental Totem restricts the use of an Fire Elemental Totem for 2 minutes and vice versa (they also have individual Cooldown periods of 10 minutes). The kind of Cooldowns are typically restricted to Privileged Abilities since they can work on these without breaking Thematic Consistency. Global Cooldowns (also found in World of Warcraft) apply to most of a players actions, and can be seen as adding a minimum Cooldown to all actions except when followed by one of a few specific actions.

Making actions into Extended Actions has several similarities with linking Cooldown periods to them, and these may be considered instead. They may also make sense to be combine in some cases, e.g. by having Global Downtime on all actions but making some of these actually enforce Downtime.

While Cooldown is most typically applied to the actions players can do, it can also be applied to Non-Player Help as a way of limiting the amount of Extra-Game Input a game can have.

Interface Aspects

Since it may be of vital importance for players to know when they can use actions again, the time remaining of Cooldown periods are typically shown through Game State Indicators.


Players know how long time Cooldown are going to last and this creates Hovering Closures even if players might not know exactly how long time remains if they are not provide with Game State Indicators. Since it motivates them to use other actions while the Cooldown is in effect, the pattern also promotes Varied Gameplay and Stimulated Planning in how and when to use these different actions. This is under the assumption that there are other actions to perform - if they are not then Cooldown instead gives rise to Downtime. Since Cooldown limits overuse of the most efficient actions in any given context (quite often Privileged Abilities) they provide a general form of Balancing Effects.

Cooldown provides individual Action Caps to abilities but this is extended to all (or most) actions for Global Cooldowns, and this can be seen as a way of making the gameplay similar to that of Tick-Based Games.


Can Instantiate

Action Caps, Balancing Effects, Downtime, Energy Penalties, Hovering Closures, Stimulated Planning, Tick-Based Games, Varied Gameplay

Can Modulate

Abilities, Cards, Collectible Card Games, Installations, Non-Player Help, Privileged Abilities, Tools

Can Be Instantiated By

Time Limits together with Ability Losses or Decreased Abilities

Deck Building together with Discard Piles

Can Be Modulated By

Game State Indicators

Possible Closure Effects

Potentially Conflicting With


New pattern created in this wiki.