Game Items

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Diegetic objects in game worlds that can be carried or interacted with.

Game Items are objects in game worlds that players can picked up and carried by players' avatars or units. They can affect actions and attributes, and acquiring them or moving them to specific locations may be required to complete goals.

Examples

Game Items play larger roles in Roleplaying Games such as Dungeons and Dragons and GURPS, both as rewards and as ways of making player characters better. One evidence of their role is the fact that entire supplements or sourcebooks are dedicated to them[1][2][3][4][5][6].

LARPs also put much emphasis on Game Items. For games such as 1942 – Noen å stole på and Dragonbane, players need to put considerable effort and skill into producing the physical items and props that are to be used during the gaming events.

Adventure Games, e.g. the Zork series and Maniac Mansion, have much of their gameplay structured around the location of Game Items that then need to be used in specific places and context to advance in the games. Other computer games, e.g. Minecraft and Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress can contain large amounts of Game Items, mostly created by the players themselves.

For game examples of more specific types of Game Items, see the patterns Armor, Tools, and Weapons.

Using the pattern

Game Items are a type of Resources which differentiates itself from other Resources by each individual unit having its own identity and presence. General categories of Game Items include Armor for protecting against Damage, Tools for providing Improved or New Abilities, and Weapons for modifying Combat. These are all Equipment but Game Items providing passive benefits are other examples of Equipment. While these all provide or modify some gameplay functionality, Cosmetic Game Items and MacGuffins are examples of Game Items that can serve purposes in games without directly affecting gameplay - all other type of Game Items can also be modulated by being Cosmetic Game Items as well. Power-Ups provide gameplay functionality but are instead only weakly present as Game Items since coming in contact with them removes them from Game Worlds.

There are some general considerations of how Game Items should be modeled in a game. First, not all Agents in Game Worlds may be able to interact with specific Game Items, giving those that can do so Privileged Abilities and changing the usefulness and value of the Game Items. They can have many various Attributes of which the most common are probably value (which makes all Game Items to a common type of Resource) and weight. Another is if they should be Destructible Objects through Deterioration; this is most common for Armor, Tools, and Weapons. Not all Game Items have tangible presences in Game Worlds (this is common for Power-Ups for example); those that do are Diegetically Tangible Game Items.

One aspect of Game Items is how they should be acquired. While some Game Items can be Rewards, e.g. after achieved Achievements or completing Quests, Game Items can also be Pick-Ups, i.e. existing as game elements in Game Boards, Game Worlds, and Levels before being acquired, possible through appearing as Loot. In this case, a vital design decision is in what locations the Game Items should appear, and if later new instances should appear there as well, and if so, if they do so through Converters, Resource Generators, or Spawning. Trading with other players, Non-Player Characters, or at Self-Service Kiosks, make it possible to make the acquisition of Game Items into Trade-Offs between these items and other Game Items or Resources. Another option is that the players can construct Game Items themselves through Crafting, as for example done in Minecraft or Slaves to Armok II: Dwarf Fortress. A final option, related to Crafting, is that the players create the items as Extra-Game Actions. These Player Created Game Elements are most commonly found in LARPs but can also be found in text-based MUDs (e.g. Kingdoms and DragonMud) where players can create the Game Worlds.

Game Items can be used as goal objects in Gain Ownership goals, especially if there is only one instance of a Game Item available and it is in a predetermined place. Once players can have Ownership of Game Items, other design options open up. Inventories allow for many Game Items to be carried and interacted with through Secondary Interface Screens. Having Equipment lets players choose which Game Items should be active or should provide New Abilities at any given point in time. Sets can be used to allow Combos to occur for having specific combinations of Game Items equipped, and acquiring such Sets can be Optional Goals.

For Multiplayer Games one can consider if Game Items are to be Transferable Items, and if so how this is controlled. Stealing is one option here, which adds Attention Demanding Gameplay to those game elements holding them as well as Tension and possibly Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences. Otherwise, Ownership of Tools may simply be that no offensive Transfer of Control actions such as Stealing are possible but those holding Tools can either drop them or voluntary engage in Trading. Some games that wishes to regulate Transferable Items, e.g. World of Warcraft, make the picking up, using, or equipping of them activate an Enforced Ownership - note that this does not have to completely make transfers impossible, World of Warcraft for example lets "soulbound" Game Items be sold to Non-Player Characters/Self-Service Kiosks.

The creation of Game Items in games with Persistent Game Worlds needs additional design consideration compared to other types of games since these may become focus of Game Element Trading and since designers can make them into Purchasable Game Advantages.

A special case of Game Items are those that trigger Ability Losses, Damage, or Decreased Abilities when picked up or equipped; these are Traps which also often give Surprises since they are typically designed to look like other harmless Game Items.

Diegetic Aspects

Game Items is a diegetic pattern but Alien Space Bats may be used to introduce (at least initially) non-thematic Game Items, as for example the alien blasters in the Fallout series.

Interface Aspects

Players' willingness to interact repeatedly on a basic level with Game Items can be increased by providing Clickability. A special case of Game Items are those who have significant physical presence and may not be representations of something but actually be the things themselves. Although these are "modified" by being physical objects, from a gameplay perspective this can be seen as modifying the Game Items through Artifact-Location or Player-Artifact Proximity.

Narrative Aspects

Most types of Game Items can be used both in Narration Structures generally and intentionally in Predetermined Story Structures, but MacGuffins are ones specifically used for this. While they can be moved about, Game Items can provide Environmental Storytelling since they can contain recollections, notes, images, etc., that can help tell what happened in Game Worlds earlier.

Consequences

As mentioned above, Game Items are Resources. When they exist as objects in Game Boards, Game Worlds, or Levels, their positions are Resource Locations and Spawn Points if they are replenished through Spawning. While the presence of Game Items can help create a Thematic Consistency they are also modulated by this in how they can be presented.

When Ownership of Game Items is regulated the existence of them open up for Transfer of Control and Collecting actions to achieve Gain Ownership goals. This may also open up for Competitions and Races if the location of the Game Items are known to the players. However, it may or may not be possible to drop or trade Game Items after it has been taken. If Game Items are dropped when Avatars or Units carrying them are killed or destroyed, or if Gain Ownership over other players Game Items are supported in the game design, the presence of Game Items promotes Competition even after they have been acquired. Being able to drop Game Items gives players the Freedom of Choice to construct their own Traces. If players do not have synchronized play or game sessions, the change of ownership of Game Items in principle becomes Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership.

Several types of Game Items, especially Armor, Tools, and Weapons but also Equipment, offers a form of Character Development for games with Characters (and for Tools and Weapons the presence of Player/Character Skill Composites). Tension can easily arise in such games, or games where individual Game Items are in other ways valuable, if they can be lost in some way (e.g. through Stealing).

Relations

Can Instantiate

Competition, Environmental Storytelling, Freedom of Choice, Gain Ownership, Heterogeneous Game Element Ownership, Narration Structures, Predetermined Story Structures, Races, Resource Locations, Resources, Rewards, Tension, Thematic Consistency, Traces

with Characters

Character Development

with Ability Losses, Damage, or Decreased Abilities

Traps

with Converters, Resource Generators, or Spawning

Spawn Points

with Persistent Game Worlds

Game Element Trading, Purchasable Game Advantages

with Sets

Optional Goals

with Stealing

Actions Have Diegetically Social Consequences, Attention Demanding Gameplay, Tension

Can Modulate

Achievements, Game Boards, Game Worlds, Levels, Quests

Can Be Instantiated By

Armor, Cosmetic Game Items, Equipment, MacGuffins, Player Created Game Elements, Power-Ups, Tools, Weapons

Can Be Modulated By

Ability Losses, Artifact-Location Proximity, Attributes, Clickability, Collecting, Converters, Cosmetic Game Items, Crafting, Damage, Decreased Abilities, Destructible Objects, Deterioration, Diegetically Tangible Game Items, Enforced Ownership, Inventories, Loot, Ownership, Persistent Game Worlds, Pick-Ups, Player-Artifact Proximity, Privileged Abilities, Resource Generators, Rewards, Sets, Spawning, Stealing, Thematic Consistency, Trading, Transfer of Control, Transferable Items,

Possible Closure Effects

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Potentially Conflicting With

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History

New pattern created in this wiki.

References

  1. Official page for the Low-Tech sourcebook for GURPS.
  2. Official page for the High-Tech sourcebook for GURPS.
  3. Official page for the Ultra-Tech sourcebook for GURPS.
  4. Official page for the Bio-Tech sourcebook for GURPS.
  5. Official page for the Adventurer's Vault book for Dungeons & Dragons.
  6. Official page for the Adventurer's Vault 2 book for Dungeons & Dragons.

Acknowledgements

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