Destructible Objects

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Game Items that can be destroyed.

Destroying things are a common activity in games, especially in computer games. This may because they pose a threat, that block access to a reward, or simply because they are there but in all cases there needs to exist Destructible Objects in the games for the activity to be possible. Not all destruction of object in games need to be due to intentional action, "natural" effects such as erosion, wear and tear, weathering, and explosive reactions can all cause destruction as well.

Note: this pattern doesn't discuss the "destruction" of game elements that are Agents, e.g. Avatars, Units, and Characters. See those specific patterns for details about this.


Through wear and tear, equipment in Minecraft and the Fallout series slowly deteriorate to the point where they are functionally destroyed.

It is a genre feature to include explosive barrels in First-Person Shooters like the Battlefield, Bioshock, Crysis, Doom, and Halo series, as well as Borderlands. Torchlight and the Diablo series also have exploding barrels. See the Giant Bomb site for an article[1] with a list of 180+ games with exploding barrels. The ruined nuclear-powered cars found in Fallout 3 can be set on fire which results in them exploding in a mushroom cloud soon afterwards.

The vehicles and installations that players can make use of in the Battlefield series can be targeted and destroyed by other players, only to later respawn to ensure that there is a constant availability of both vehicles and installations in the game. Crysis also contain destructible vehicles and allows for the destruction of forests and some types of buildings, while the Red Faction series goes further in this by having all buildings (and in earlier version all terrain) destructible as well; NetHack and Minecraft allow destruction of their game worlds in an even more fundamental level. The buildings in Greed Corp cannot be destroyed by using "harvesters" erode the tiles that gameplay occurs on, making the game world smaller as gameplay progresses.

Using the pattern

Destructible Objects are with few exceptions Game Items that can by some means be destroyed, e.g. by receiving Damage. Any type of Game Items may be the source, although Weapons and Armor are common (through Deterioration as for example in Minecraft or the Fallout series) as is Vehicles and Installations in games which these occur in (e.g. the Battlefield series). Obstacles are another option - letting these be Destructible Objects lets players choose between going around them or using some effort to destroy them. The destructions may be instantaneous or Delayed Effects, and they may cause Damage to those close by as well as creating Obstacles when they are destroyed. A general option when considering having Destructible Objects is if they should later reappear through Spawning.

Deciding on the allowed causes for destruction is part of creating Destructible Objects. Action tied to Combat, e.g. Aim & Shoot, are obvious possibilities but the Deterioration from wear and tear opens up for adding Resource Management or Maintenance as part of game designs. Conceivably, Penalties can also be the causes. Health can be applied to the Destructible Objects to allow them to survive several attacks or to allow varying amount of Damage to be given by attacks. Destructible Objects can' be designed to have Invulnerabilities, but this typically only makes sense if common rules for how all game objects of one type can be destroyed, otherwise it makes more sense to see Destructible Objects as game objects with specific Vulnerabilities.

Mirroring the previous decision is deciding why players should be motivated to destroy the Destructible Objects. Making them into Eliminate goals is a trivial solution, but making Loot appear when destruction occurs (as for example is done in Torchlight) invite players to choose to have the goal. For Destructible Objects that are Traps, destroying them may be a way of eliminating the threat they represent but this also allows Tactical Planning to use them against Enemies (which is a common use in for example the Doom and Half-Life series). If the Destructible Objects create Obstacles when destroyed this can result in Choke Points emerging during gameplay.

The pattern of Parallel Lives is created by connecting one player's Lives to a set of Destructible Objects that all are at risk simultaneously.

A special case of Destructible Objects are possible in games created from Tiles. In these the Tiles can be Destructible Objects, see for example Forbidden Island, Greed Corp, and Hey! That's My Fish!, and this can lead to Shrinking Game Worlds.

Diegetic Aspects

That game elements are Destructible Objects is one way to have Game Element Removal while maintaining Thematic Consistency. However, the remains from the Game Items are typically dispense of in a not-to-realistic animation fading these away - this does however not disturb Narrative Engrossment since these are Props which players learn to not notice.


Destructible Objects change how players have to relate to Game Items and through this how they have to relate to Game Worlds. The latter may be more obvious for Game Items that can be destroyed in Game Worlds rather that when in players' Inventories but the destruction of worn or wielded items are due to interaction with, or effects of, the Game Worlds. When the actual destruction takes place sometime after the action that triggered the destruction, i.e. being a Delayed Effect, this gives players Anticipation.

When Destructible Objects cause Damage this makes them possible to use to create Traps; this can also be the effect if they are destroyed simply by coming in contact with them if this causes avalanches, falls, or floods.

The destruction of Destructible Objects leads to Game Element Removal, with the possible appearance of Loot. This makes Destructible Objects natural targets for Eliminate goals. When the objects do not reappear due to Spawning, this make the destruction of them into Persistent Game World Changes.


Can Instantiate

Parallel Lives, Eliminate, Persistent Game World Changes, Thematic Consistency, Traps

with Delayed Effects


with Obstacles

Choke Points

with Tiles

Shrinking Game Worlds

with Traps

Tactical Planning

Can Modulate

Armor, Game Items, Game Worlds, Obstacles, Tiles, Traps, Weapons

Can Be Instantiated By

Aim & Shoot, Combat, Deterioration, Penalties, Vulnerabilities

Can Be Modulated By

Damage, Delayed Effects, Health, Invulnerabilities, Lives, Obstacles, Spawning

Possible Closure Effects

Damage, Game Element Removal, Loot, Props

Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Giant Bomb article on exploding barrels.