Encouraged Return Visits

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Game structures making players want to return to certain places or activities in the game over several game sessions.

Some games are created so they cannot be finished in one play session. This of course risks that players never return even if they are playing with or against other players. To make the players of these games return they can be designed to have Encouraged Return Visits, i.e. as part of their gameplay players do plan when they should play again.


When players of FarmVille place crops or animals in their farm they are also committing themselves to returning to the game after a certain time since each such placed object only can be activated after a certain waiting period. Additional, there is only a certain harvest window before crops wither and not many crops or animal have the same waiting periods. To further encourage players to return often, FarmVille and other games such as Ravenwood Fair and Zombie Lane provide specific rewards simply for returning regularly.

Persistent game worlds such as World of Warcraft can have certain quests and items only available at times matching certain dates in the real world (e.g. New Year's Eve, Oktoberfest, and the Day of the Dead), encouraging players to at least play then. Mafia Wars did a similar thing in having a special challenge mission related to the world championship in Soccer 2010.

Pervasive Games such as Geocaching, Insectopia, and SCVNGR are not played continuously, instead players intermittently play them when they visit specific places. This leads the games to have Encouraged Return Visits, not only regarding returning to the game but sometimes also to specific physical locations.

Using the pattern

Encouraged Return Visits assumed that there is a game to return to and that it is possible to join and leave it often, so a requirement for this design choice is that the game in consideration already supports Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay, and typically this is done through a Persistent Game World. Partly because they often have such Game Worlds and partly because they want to have a certain number of players at all times, the pattern is commonly used in Massively Single-Player Online Games and Massively Multiplayer Online Games

There are several different ways of encouraging players to return to games. The simplest is to give Rewards to players for returning at certain intervals, e.g. giving one reward every. This can be modulated by using Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses - that is increasing the Rewards for consecutive visit, which for example FarmVille, Ravenwood Fair, and Zombie Lane does. Delayed Effects or Development Time are probably the easiest, simply making the period before the effect takes place long enough forces players to leave the game for real world reasons but they still need to return to see the effect. Planting and harvesting crops in FarmVille is an example how this can be used in games. Budgeted Action Points combined with Regenerating Resources is another basic solution, used for example in CityVille, Ravenwood Fair, and Zombie Lane, that can easily be combined with Extended Actions; the use of Budgeted Action Points in this case make the advantage of returning more explicit but any use of Regenerating Resources in Persistent Game Worlds also provides Encouraged Return Visits. These may be Interruptible Actions but this adds a Risk/Reward component to departing the game - in fact, Encouraged Return Visits can be seen as a way of making Continuous Goals have more Challenging Gameplay when the actions can be interrupted. Investments is a more specific way of achieving actions with Delayed Effects while Collecting is an activity that can support Encouraged Return Visits because the Resources are not always available and appear at Spawn Points or other types of Resource Generators. Making players Always Vulnerable to attacks from Enemies and other players, as for example is done in Eve Online and Travian, also encourages players to return often to notice if such attacks are occurring or are being prepared. Asynchronous Collaborative Actions ties Encouraged Return Visits to Cooperation with the possibility of Guilting.

Having Events Timed to the Real World is another option for Encouraged Return Visits since players need to wait for the real world event to happen before they can perform certain actions and complete certain goals in the game world. While Events Timed to the Real World give rise to specific Ephemeral Events, these in general can used also to create Encouraged Return Visits as long as players can become aware of them, e.g. through Extra-Game Broadcasting. These events are a form of Extra-Game Input when they are added to the gameplay during ongoing games, e.g. as the soccer-inspired missions were added to Mafia Wars. Extra-Game Broadcasting can also be used to remind players of their own actions that need doing and thereby strength how they provide Encouraged Return Visits, but Extra-Game Broadcasting of other players' actions can in itself encourage players to return to the game by simply reminding them of its existance.

Persistent Game Worlds add two other options. First, if they have Evolving Rule Sets due to designers often adding or modifying parts of the game, players will need to return regularly to keep up with the changes in the game or be disadvantaged. Second, if actions and events have long enough Delayed Effects it may not be possible to notice these effects during one play session. Third, if they support Altruistic Actions or other reasons for Delayed Reciprocity, players may both want to return to see if others have return the favors they have given, or feel that they might now owe other players to help them. The two latter can also be used in games with Drop-In/Drop-Out gameplay as long as game instances last long enough to make return visits meaningful to consider.

Games where players need to visit specific real world places, i.e. those with Player-Location Proximity but also Artifact-Location Proximity, are likely to create Encouraged Return Visits since they are unlikely to be possible to complete if the gaming area is big enough. Examples of these types of games include Geocaching and SCVNGR.


Many of the reasons for players to have Encouraged Return Visits also make them have Grinding. However, since Encouraged Return Visits makes players return again and again to games it provides the basic requirement for Social Interaction, that people can meet and interact with each other.


Can Instantiate

Grinding, Social Interaction

with Continuous Goals

Challenging Gameplay

with Interruptible Actions


Can Modulate

Continuous Goals, Drop-In/Drop-Out, Massively Multiplayer Online Games, Massively Single-Player Online Games, Persistent Game Worlds

Can Be Instantiated By

Always Vulnerable, Artifact-Location Proximity, Asynchronous Collaborative Actions, Events Timed to the Real World, Extended Actions, Extra-Game Broadcasting, Investments, Player-Location Proximity, Rewards

Budgeted Action Points together with Regenerating Resources and Persistent Game Worlds

Collecting together with Resource Generators or Spawn Points

Altruistic Actions, Delayed Effects, Development Time, or Delayed Reciprocity together with Drop-In/Drop-Out or Persistent Game Worlds

Persistent Game Worlds together with Ephemeral Events or Evolving Rule Sets

Can Be Modulated By

Extra-Game Broadcasting, Extra-Game Input, Higher-Level Closures as Gameplay Progresses, Interruptible Actions

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With



New pattern created in this wiki.