Ancillary actions necessary for gameplay but that do not contribute directly to gameplay.
Games have game states that need to be updated during gameplay. This can feel like an unwanted workload when this needs to be done by players for reasons that are not directly ties to actions they have performed. This kind of unwanted work or maintenance is called Excise. It can also occur when the gameplay actions one takes feel like unwanted burdens that are needs to be able to perform the interesting ones.
Note: the concept of Excise comes from the field of Human-Computer Interaction.
Note: see Extra-Game Actions for actions that do not affect the game state of ongoing game instances.
Most Board Games and Roleplaying Games require Excise since players need to manually keep track of the game state and update it as necessary. For Roleplaying Games, the game masters also have the task of describing the game worlds and the actions that take place within them.
Massively Multiplayer Online Games such as World of Warcraft or Eve Online often require players to do repetitive tasks for long times to gain certain resources. The same can be seen in Farmville, the Elder Scrolls series, and the Fallout series. Excise can also be found when in games where players need to kill large numbers of monsters to acquire the right kind of loot; this can be found in the Elder Scrolls series, the Fallout series, and Diablo series.
Using the pattern
Excise is usually seen as a Negative Pattern which although unwanted occurs as a consequence of wanted design features. Thus, designing for Excise is typically aimed at minimizing the effects of it. The need for Excise can depend on many different design features. On the most general level, Optional Rules can introduce new Excise but also introduces it by making players need to choose which Optional Rules to use and keep track of this during gameplay. Also generally, the issue of Excise in games can be mitigated by having it interwoven with choices (i.e. Freedom of Choice) or allowing players to interaction socially while performing them (i.e. ensuring that the Excise has Minimalized Social Weight).
The first reason for Excise comes from having to manipulate game states for other reasons than actual gameplay actions. Handling complex or detailed Abstract Player Constructs, Characters, groups of Units, or Persistent Game Worlds does so because specifics about them need to be found, described, or updated. Dedicated Game Facilitators, Game Servers, and Game Masters can remove this, but of course the latter requires Excise from the Game Masters themselves (Entitled Players can spread the burden somewhat). Similarly Complex Gameplay can give rise to Excise because many game elements need to be manipulated (e.g. through Game Element Insertion or updating No-Use Bonuses). More generally, any game with significant about of Gameplay Statistics that needs to be manually updated can cause Excise. For this reason, any game needing Bookkeeping Tokens can be said to have some Excise but having Resource Caps can limit this. While Current Player Tokens and First Player Tokens are examples of Bookkeeping Tokens, they help players remember things they need to keep track of anyway and can thereby be seen to modulate rather than create Excise. The same goes for Character Sheets, Inventories, and Score Tracks. Loading and saving game states in Computer Games does produce some Excise related to manipulating game states but this is often not a problem unless players engage in Save Scumming.
Another reason for Excise comes from actions that are gameplay actions but can be perceived as meaningless or uninteresting to players. Given that Grinding is performing repetitive actions without significant challenges, any actions perceived as these can easily be perceived as Excise; this type of Excise can be removed through offering Purchasable Game Advantages or allowing Mules or Non-Player Help. More specifically applying brute force methods to find solutions to Puzzle Solving can be Excise, as can conducting Movement across uneventful terrains. Having to move without Vehicles in Vehicle Sections being a prime example of this while introducing Vehicles can be a way of removing Excise for "normal" Movement (which can be noticed in games like the Battlefield series). Quick Returns and Quick Travel are other design patterns that can mitigate Excise related to Movement. While acquiring Loot in itself isn't necessarily Excise it can easily become this if players go through the motions of acquiring a lot of Loot simply to find some specific rare Loot. Drafting requires some Excise to swap game elements in synchronicity, and this becomes pronounced when there is no gameplay or choices involved (as for example occurs when dealing hands of Cards in many Card Games. Rolling Dice is often not seen as Excise (since players' can have a sense of agency through shaking and rolling them) but Open-Ended Die Rolls can because they may make the creation of a result take several steps with evaluation between each step.
Zero-Player Games can be said to have made all gameplay into Excise but can still offer meaningful play to players through the Meta Games they can provide. Similarly, games with Action Programming but no actual choices for players when the inner gameplay occurs (as is for example the case in C-Robots) consist purely of Excise (although interesting choices exist outside the inner gameplay).
Excise and Extra-Game Actions are mutually exclusive; an action cannot be both.
As also mentioned above, Bookkeeping Tokens are necessary design solutions that cause Excise in significantly complex games. However, they may be justified on their own for helping players keep track of things they anyway need to keep track of. Examples of this include Character Sheets, Current Player Tokens, First Player Tokens, Inventories, and Score Tracks.
Can Be Instantiated By
Abstract Player Constructs, Action Programming, Bookkeeping Tokens, Characters, Complex Gameplay, Drafting, Open-Ended Die Rolls, Game Element Insertion, Game Masters, Gameplay Statistics, Grinding, Loot, Movement, No-Use Bonus, Optional Rules, Persistent Game Worlds, Puzzle Solving, Save Scumming, Self-Facilitated Games, Units, Vehicle Sections, Zero-Player Games
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
Dedicated Game Facilitators, Engrossment, Extra-Game Actions, Freedom of Choice, Game Masters, Minimalized Social Weight, Mules, Non-Player Help, Purchasable Game Advantages, Quick Returns, Quick Travel, Vehicles
New pattern created in this wiki.
- Cooper, A., Reimann, R., Cronin, D. & Noessel, C. (2014). About Face: The Essentials of Interaction Design, 4th edition. Wiley.